US says would consider staying in Iraq beyond 2011

By on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The White House said Monday it “would consider” any Iraqi request for a US troop presence past 2011 as the war-torn country mourned the bloodiest violence in more than a year.

“Obviously there have been attacks and we strongly condemn them,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters as President Barack Obama launched a campaign-style bus tour here focused on the gloomy US economy.

But “the overall picture is one where violence has been down,” said Carney, who added the bloody wave of countrywide attacks “doesn’t change” plans to withdraw US forces by year’s end.

“And if they (Iraqi leaders) make some kind of request we certainly would consider it. But right now we’re operating under the status of forces agreement reached between the two governments,” said the spokesman.

His comments came after attacks in 17 cities across Iraq killed 67 people on Monday, including 40 in twin blasts blamed on Al-Qaeda in the southern city of Kut, in the country’s bloodiest day in more than a year.

The surge of violence raised questions over the competence of Iraq’s forces after its leaders agreed to open talks with the United States over a military training mission to last beyond a projected year-end American withdrawal.

The attacks, which also wounded more than 300 people, were quickly condemned by Iraqi leaders, with parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi blaming security leaders for unspecified “violations.”

In the worst attack, an 8:00 am (0500 GMT) roadside bomb in the center of Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, was followed minutes later by a nearby car bomb, medical and security officials said.

Carney spoke as US President Barack Obama traveled here to launch a three-day bus tour through states key to his 2012 reelection bid, looking to reassure US voters worried and angry about the sour US economy.

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