Iraqi foreign minister against timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was against a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, adding they could not leave before Iraq was stable. "I am against the principle of a timetable. The departure of American troops is linked to the stability of Iraq. They can't leave before," Zebari told the French daily Le Figaro in an interview published Thursday.

U.S. President George W. Bush gave an unflinching defense of his war strategy Wednesday, refusing to set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals and asserting that once-shaky Iraqi troops are proving increasingly capable.

Bush is under growing pressure to bring the troops home as U.S. military deaths in the war rise beyond 2,100 and his popularity sits at the lowest point of his presidency. Zebari said the stabilization of Iraq, which is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on Dec. 15, must be guaranteed by the training of Iraqi security forces.

"We are aware of the existence of a debate. But I think we need patience and determination, because the next months will be critical for Iraq," Le Figaro quoted him as saying. Zebari visited France earlier this week, reports the AP. I.L.

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