- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

BAGHDAD (Agence France-Presse) — U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said yesterday that his country did not want permanent military bases in Iraq and that he was willing to talk to Iran about the war-torn country’s future.

“We want Iraq to stand on its own feet. We have no goal of establishing permanent bases here,” he said in an interview with Iraq’s Al Sharqiya television, according to a transcript obtained by AFP.

“Our goal is a working, a workable government, so that we can leave Iraq and let Iraqis handle all their circumstance themselves. That’s our goal, and were very serious about this. We mean it,” he said.

The ambassador said he was willing to speak with Iran about Iraq’s future, stressing however that the United States would not let its concerns over Iran’s nuclear weapons drive influence its policies in Iraq.

“I have offered to the Iranians that we are willing to talk with them about our differences with regard to Iraq,” he said.

“Iran says that the United States wants to promote sectarianism here,” he said. “I have talked to you about nothing but unity and the effort by others who are enemies of Iraq to promote sectarianism and division.”

U.S. officials have maintained that Iran is undermining Iraqi reconstruction, influencing its politics and even actively supporting the insurgency there.

Mr. Khalilzad also conceded that Washington had made mistakes since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but did not elaborate on what they were.

“We certainly have made some mistakes ourselves … . We did make mistakes. But we have learned from mistakes and tried to adjust. That’s our style, to sort of keep on going, adjust as the circumstances warrant.”

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