BAGHDAD, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday said he will discuss with the leaders of the political blocs the possible remaining for thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011.
"I will call on the leaders of the political blocs for a meeting soon to discuss the issue (extension of U.S. troops' presence in Iraq)," Maliki told reporters at a news conference.
"If they accept I will say yes, and if they refuse I will say no," Maliki said without revealing his own opinion over keeping troops in Iraq beyond December withdrawal deadline.
Iraqi political blocs are sharply divided over whether part of the U.S. troops will have to stay amid continuing violence in the country and the region as well, or to leave to assert independence eagerly wanted by Iraqis.
Sunni Arab provinces frequently protested the presence of U.S. troops after years of bloody insurgency against foreign troops on the Iraqi soil following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
In addition, anti-U.S. Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose support was critical for Maliki to form a new government, has warned that keeping U.S. troops in the country would amount to a continued "American occupation."
However, Babaker Zebari, Chief of Staff of the Iraqi armed forces, a Kurd, has said repeatedly that Iraq's army "will not be ready to control Iraq until 2020."
The controversial troops extension forced Maliki to seek support from the rival political blocs who apparently are eager to see him knocked out by taking the responsibility of such sensitive issue alone.
"No one should be held responsible alone. It is the responsibility of all of us, whether Yes, or No," Maliki warned his rivals.
In mid 2010, U.S. troops in Iraq had been reduced to below 50,000 soldiers. Washington said that the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq are conducting support and training missions.
U.S. military forces are to pull out completely from Iraq by the end of 2011 according to the security pact signed late in 2008 between Baghdad and Washington.
Obama announces end of U.S. combat mission in Iraq
WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the end of combat operations in Iraq, saying the United States has met its responsibility, and "it is time to turn the page."
"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," Obama said in an Oval Office address to the nation. Full story
Special Report: Situation in Iraq