Global Policy Forum

US-led Troops in Iraq Part of Problem – UK's Straw

August 2, 2005

The presence of British and U.S. troops in Iraq is fuelling the Sunni-led insurgency which has killed hundreds of people, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in comments published on Tuesday.

In an interview with Britain's Financial Times newspaper, Straw said it was crucial Iraq's draft constitution was ready by a mid-August deadline to pave the way for a troop withdrawal. "The more certainty you have on that (the constitution), the more you can have a programme for the draw-down of troops which is important for the Iraqis," he said. "Because -- unlike in Afghanistan -- although we are part of the security solution there, we are also part of the problem."

The Iraqi panel drawing up the constitution has come under intense U.S. pressure to submit a draft on time. The Iraqi government and its U.S. backers see the constitution as a key part of any democratic process and hope it can help defuse the two-year-old insurgency and allow U.S. and British troops to withdraw sooner.

U.S. General George Casey said last month he expected troop cuts after a referendum on a new constitution due in October and an election for a new leader in December. Casey made a similar prediction earlier this year, but U.S. officials have avoided suggesting a timetable since violence worsened sharply after the new government took power in April.

Britain, Washington's main ally in the 2003 war to topple former President Saddam Hussein, has about 8,500 troops in Iraq, based mainly in the south.

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