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U.N. concerned about Iraq strength before U.S. exit
A senior spokesman for the Kurdish forces known as “peshmerga” said American advisers largely stopped overseeing the joint troops three months ago. He predicted the Kurdish-Arab force would remain in place in at least 22 checkpoints across the disputed lands.
“These checkpoints will keep on its joint work even after the departure of U.S troops,” peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar said.
A decision on whether U.S. troops will remain is not expected for several weeks at least, and the American military already is starting to pack up to leave. About 46,000 U.S. troops currently are in Iraq. The White House has offered to keep up to 10,000 there.
Mr. Melkert also met Sunday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who issued a statement praising the envoy’s work. Mr. al-Maliki said Mr. Melkert affirmed U.N. support of Baghdad’s push to transfer several thousand Iranian exiles who live in a remote desert camp out of the country by the end of the year.
The residents of Camp Ashraf are a resistance group to Tehran’s clerical regime. They have been a thorn in Mr. al-Maliki’s side as he tried to bolster ties with Iran.
The Ashraf residents do not want to leave, however, and it’s not known where they could go. It’s not clear if they are considered refugees with a protected status under international treaties.
Mr. Melkert did not discuss Camp Ashraf during the AP interview.
Associated Press writer Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.
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