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Iraq Needs U.S. Troops to Stay Longer for Training, Maliki Says

July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq may seek to keep U.S. troops in the country past this year to help with training, a role not requiring the approval of a parliament ready to reject continuation of American combat missions, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said today.

“Iraq needs the Americans for training on the sea, air and ground and sea weapons,” he said in an interview with state-sponsored Iraqiya television. “This does not need the approval of parliament,” he said.

All 46,000 U.S. combat troops in the country are scheduled to leave by the end of the year unless Iraq and the U.S. reach a new agreement and the Iraqi parliament ratifies it by a two-thirds vote.

“This would be difficult, and our estimates show that it would be difficult to secure two-thirds of parliament,” Maliki said. “We are not moving toward a renewal” of parliamentary authorization for U.S. combat forces “and if some blocs are in favor of that, they don’t make up two-thirds of parliament,” he said.

On his first visit to Iraq as U.S. defense secretary this week, Leon Panetta urged the embattled country’s leaders to decide quickly on whether they want U.S. troops to stay. He said the U.S. would “seriously consider” such a proposal.

During talks with Panetta, Maliki cited his force’s limited capabilities for intelligence collection, logistics, border security and protection of airspace.

Iraq has been engulfed in violence since the U.S.-led invasion of the country that ousted the regime of President Saddam Hussein in 2003. While most of the killed and injured have been civilians, government officials and foreign troops have been hit in a recent surge of attacks. The death toll for American troops in Iraq spiked to 15 in June, the biggest one-month loss of U.S. lives in at least two years.

Iraq and the U.S. have begun joint operations to halt a spate of attacks on American troops by a new, more powerful type of mortar and armor-piercing roadside bombs. The U.S. military attributes the assaults to an Iranian-backed militia with weapons from Iran.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nayla Razzouk in Amman at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Riad Hamade at rhamade@bloomberg.net

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