PUEBLO, Colorado (AFP) — Barack Obama's White House campaign angrily denied Monday a report that he had secretly urged the Iraqis to postpone a deal to withdraw US troops until after November's election.
In the New York Post, conservative Iranian-born columnist Amir Taheri quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying the Democrat made the demand when he visited Baghdad in July, while publicly demanding an early withdrawal.
"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview, according to Taheri.
"However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open," Zebari reportedly said.
The Republican campaign of John McCain seized on the report to accuse Obama of double-speak on Iraq, calling it an "egregious act of political interference by a presidential candidate seeking political advantage overseas."
But Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial."
In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.
In the face of resistance from Bush, the Democrat has long said that any such agreement must be reviewed by the US Congress as it would tie a future administration's hands on Iraq.
"Barack Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations, nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades," Morigi said.
"These outright distortions will not changes the facts -- Senator Obama is the only candidate who will safely and responsibly end the war in Iraq and refocus our attention on the real threat: a resurgent Al-Qaeda and Taliban along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border."
Last Tuesday, Bush announced plans to remove 8,000 US troops from Iraq in the coming months and send 4,500 to Afghanistan by January.
Obama said the president was belatedly coming round to his own way of thinking, but also accused Bush of "tinkering around the edges" and "kicking the can down the road to the next president."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »