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US: Obama not seen abandoning Iraq: FM

05 Nov 2008 6:23 PM
US: Obama not seen abandoning Iraq: FM

By Ammar Karim

BAGHDAD, Nov 5 AFP - Iraq today ruled out a "quick disengagement" policy byWashington in the country following Barack Obama's victory, dispelling hopes of many Iraqis of a rapid withdrawal of US troops.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari welcomed the election of Democrat Obama andsaid he did not expect an "overnight" change in US policy in war-torn Iraq.

"There won't be quick disengagement here. A great deal is at stake," Zebaritold AFP. "We don't think there will be change in policy overnight."

He said Baghdad would respect the will of the American voters and that Baghdad was looking for a "successful partnership" with Obama.

"But there are many upcoming challenges," Zebari cautioned.

Obama promised during his campaigning to withdraw US forces from Iraq over a period of 16 months from when he takes over the White House in January 2009.

Many Iraqis, after his electoral victory was announced today, called on thepresident-elect to make good his promise and ensure the rapid withdrawal of the 145,000-strong American force from the violence-wracked country.

"The most important thing for Iraq is the withdrawal of American forces andObama has called for this," said Mohammed Abdel, a taxi driver from Baghdad's central Karrada district.

"It is because of them that we are stuck in traffic jams and arrive at worklate. If they get out, things will be normal here," he said as a passing US military patrol halted traffic at a key intersection in Karrada.

Maitham Muhammed, 19, a university student, said Iraqis and Americans want the same thing - "withdrawal of troops."

"Obama's victory is victory for America and somehow for Iraq. He won the support of the majority of the American voters who want the withdrawal of forces from Iraq. We also want this."

Another Iraqi, Abu Dargham, said he liked Obama's "open mind" approach to policies.

"He will talk to everybody, including Iran. He will withdraw the forces."

The movement of Iraq's anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr welcomed Obama's victory.

"We consider his victory as a wish of the American public to withdraw forces from Iraq. This is what we are looking for," said sheikh Saleh al-Obeidi,Sadr's spokesman in the holy city of Najaf.

Sadr has been the strongest opponent of American forces in Iraq and launched two rebellions in 2004 against them in Najaf.

Lawmaker Jalaluddin Saghir from the powerful Shi'ite Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council said Obama would be under less pressure from the US Congress but his "approach towards Iraq would be less enthusiastic than (George W) Bush."

"However he does represent some good things like plans to hold dialogue with neighbouring countries such as Iran and Syria. This will lead to positivesteps that will serve Iraq's interests."

Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Otham hoped Obama would carefully study the situation in Iraq.

"I supported Obama and I hope his victory will be a good result for the US and for Iraq," he said.

"He has to analyse what has happened in Iraq and I hope he will be able to do so with the participation of the Iraqi government."

AFP tnf=0A