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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi President Asks U.S. Troops to Stay

PARIS -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Thursday that U.S. troops should remain in Iraq for up to three more years to enable the local authorities to develop their own security forces.

At the start of a weeklong visit to France, Talabani rejected suggestions that Iraq had descended into civil war and accused the media of focusing exclusively on negative stories.

But he said "international terrorists" were still concentrating all their efforts in Iraq, which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them.

"We need time. Not 20 years, but time. I personally can say that two to three years will be enough to build up our forces and say to our American friends: 'Bye-bye with thanks,'" Talabani said at a conference organized by the French Institute of International Relations think tank.

Public pressure is building in both the United States and Britain to bring back troops from Iraq. U.S. President George W. Bush's Republicans face possible loss of control of Congress in Nov. 7 elections, with dismay over his Iraq policy a critical factor in voter intentions.

But Talabani gave an upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq, saying life was relatively normal beyond Baghdad.

"There is no civil war. The media is focusing only on the negative side of Iraq. ... We need to give the real picture. It's not just car bombs. Visit Iraq from the north to the south. Never mind Baghdad," he told reporters.

Very few French journalists venture into Iraq nowadays after three French reporters were kidnapped in 2004-05 and held for months before eventually being allowed home.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said more than 40 civilians died each day last month as a result of the political violence and The New York Times this week quoted the U.S. military as saying Iraq was descending into chaos.

Talabani angrily shrugged off the suggestion. "The Pentagon can say what it likes," he said, cutting short the questioner.

Iraqi security forces patrolling near the Iranian border found six donkeys carrying dozens of high-explosive antitank mines, the U.S. military said in a statement Thursday.

The statement said Iraqi forces seized 53 Russian- and Italian-made antitank landmines and one antitank projectile.

"The donkeys were later released unharmed into the local area," it said.