WASHINGTON (AFP) — Amid a bitter dispute over US bases in Iraq, the White House signaled Wednesday it does not view any US military installations overseas -- except perhaps Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- as permanent.
"The United States, where we are, where we have bases, we are there at the invitation of those countries. I'm not aware of any place in the world -- where we have a base -- that they are asking us to leave. And if they did, we would probably leave," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Asked about Guantanamo Bay, Perino replied: "I'm going to say that one doesn't count." The United States and Cuba disagree about the validity and the terms of the 1903 treaty that originally carved out the area for the base.
The spokeswoman's comments came amid a difficult election-year debate about the duration of the US military presence in Iraq, with some war critics accusing Washington of seeking a permanent military foothold there.
Top aides to US President George W. Bush have countered that the strife-torn country's government could ask US forces to leave at any time, meaning that bases are not technically "permanent."
But Perino's comments signalled that Washington does not consider any of its overseas bases to be permanent -- including the half-century presence in South Korea, or the forces stationed in Japan since World War Two.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Robert Gates sought to ease concerns over Iraq by insisting that Washington and the government in Baghdad do not want permanent US military bases there.
Their column in the Washington Post came as the United States and Iraq geared up for talks aimed at forging a lasting strategic relationship some five years after the US-led March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
"Nothing will authorize permanent bases in Iraq (something neither we nor Iraqis want)," they wrote.
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