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Arab League chief: Iraq pullout should be gradual | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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CERNOBBIO, Italy (AP) – Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, warned Saturday the U.S. should not withdraw took quickly from Iraq and leave the country “in chaos.”

“The question is, is Iraq today ready with a national army, a national police force, a national judiciary, a national educational system,” Moussa told The Associated Press.

“If they are ready, the troops have to leave,” he said.

“If they are not ready and the Americans are there anyway and the mistake has been committed, I am not of the view that we just call on the Americans to leave … It would be another mistake to create chaos in the country and then leave it in chaos.”

U.S. President George W. Bush will announce his decision on future troops levels in Iraq next week and is expected to largely follow the recommendations of military leaders to reduce the number by up to 8,000 by mid-January. The closely held plan forwarded by senior Pentagon advisers calls for keeping 15 combat brigades in Iraq until the end of the year, according to senior defense officials.

Bush is scheduled to make remarks Tuesday at the National Defense University in Washington. White House press secretary Dana Perino says he has been talking with his national security team and will be consulting with members of Congress about Iraq.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, delivered his recommendations to military leaders about two weeks ago. He had initially argued to maintain the current force levels in Iraq, about 146,000 troops, including 15 combat brigades and thousands of support forces, through June, according to defense officials.

Officials discussed details of the plan on condition of anonymity because Bush has not yet made a final decision. Moussa said U.S. troops should scale back, but “it has to be done in a reasonable way.” Moussa spoke on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum, an annual gathering of political and business leaders at which he clashed a day earlier with Israeli President Shimon Peres over the Jewish state’s non-response to the Arab League’s 2002 proposal for comprehensive Middle East peace. The proposal calls for an Israeli withdrawal from virtually all the territory it occupied in the 1967 war, and Peres bristled at what he turned the “take-it-or-leave it” nature of the offer. Moussa disputed this, noting that the proposal did call for talks on the fate of Palestinian refugees and left some border issues slightly open to negotiation.

Asked if the proposal was be forever on the table, Moussa replied: “I do not propose that we rescind it … but I do not exclude the possibility, the strong possibility, that at a certain point we will rescind it for lack of results…. The game has become so repetitious. There is no end in sight. No real peace in sight .. They (the Israelis) are good at talking, good at processing, good at propaganda, but they are not good at peace.”

Moussa said it was also a mistake for the U.S. to have tried to «impose» democracy on Iraq, and that while the Arab world at large would eventually be ready for democracy, it would be a process.

“The Mideast is a candidate for that (democracy) but there are certain things that have to be dealt with. The Arab-Israeli conflict which allows so many people to talk about liberation. We have to promote things in the right way. (And) our educational system has to change.” “The Arab world is in deep and major crisis.”