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Iraqi Vice President Opposes Quick U.S. Troop Withdrawal


Al-Hashimi with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on March 23 (epa) March 24, 2007 -- Iraq's vice president says neither Iraq nor Western interests will benefit from a "short-notice" withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.


Tariq al-Hashimi has welcomed a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but said it must take place when Iraqi troops are ready to handle security on their own.


"If they withdraw tomorrow with a short notice, this is going to create a security vacuum in Iraq," al-Hashimi said. "That security vacuum in Iraq is not going to be filled by a troops that are trained enough. There are not enough of them, they are not professional enough, and some of them are not loyal enough to the country. So we will have problem. This could lead to chaos and the chaos could lead to a civil war."


He said Iraqi armed forces will need no more than 1 1/2 years to prepare for systematic withdrawal of coalition forces.


U.S. House Votes For Withdrawal


On March 23, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impose a deadline for the end of August 2008, for withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq.


The Democrats, who control the House, succeeded in a 218-212 vote to attach the deadline to legislation authorizing more than $124 billion in funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The move prompted a veto threat and a strong rebuke from President George W. Bush.


"This bill has too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal," Bush said. "As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops. "


The Senate is expected to vote next week on legislation similar to the House bill. However, to pass the Senate version, the Democrats would need the support of about a dozen Republican senators.


More Violence In Iraq


Meanwhile, attacks continued in Iraq today.


A suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives struck a police station in southern Baghdad today, killing some 20 people and wounding around 30 others.


The victims of the attack in the predominantly Sunni Dora district included police and civilians.


A separate suicide bombing attack today claimed at least 10 lives in the northwestern town of Tal Afar.


The mayor of the town, Najim al-Juburi, said the attacker targeted a market area in the center of the town. Two of the dead were police officers.


In another attack, a suicide car bomber struck a police station in the Al-Qa'im district of Al-Anbar province near the Syrian border. The attack killed 10 people including seven police.


And in Al-Haswa, south of Baghdad, a suicide truck bomber struck a Shi'ite mosque killing nine.


Also today, 10 bullet-riddled corpses were found in Baghdad.


The attack came one day after a suicide bomb attack injured Iraq's Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zawba'i and killed at least six of his entourage.


Al-Zawba'i is reported in stable condition after undergoing surgery following the attack.


A Sunni militant group linked to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt.


(compiled from agency reports)

On The Verge Of Civil War

The Imam Al-Mahdi Army on parade (epa)


HAS THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ BECOME A CIVIL WAR? Many observers have concluded that the tit-for-tat sectarian violence that emerged after the February 2006 bombing of a mosque in Samarra has become a full-blown civil war.... (more)

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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.

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