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Rumsfeld: Iraq Troop Pull-Out Possible Before Peace

Donald Rumsfeld (file photo) 24 September 2004 -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today he felt it was possible to start withdrawing troops from Iraq before peace was established over the entire country.

Rumsfeld, who met visiting Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Washington, afterwards told reporters it was unlikely the situation in Iraq would be absolutely calm any time soon.

"Any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces I think would obviously be unwise, because it's never been peaceful and perfect and it isn't likely to be. It's a tough part of the world. Our goal is to invest the time and the money and the effort to help them train up Iraqis to take over those [security] responsibilities," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said there were clear disadvantages to having a large force in any country, adding no country wants foreign forces on its territory any longer than they have to be there.

Rumsfeld's comments came one day after he suggested Iraq could hold elections in January 2005 even if some areas were unable to participate.