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UN concerned about Iraq strength before US exit
AP Interview: UN envoy urges Iraq to assess its security forces' strength without US troops
By The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) ' The U.N.'s outgoing top envoy to Iraq says Baghdad must determine whether its security forces are strong enough to thwart violence before requiring U.S. troops to leave.

Ad Melkert declined to say in an Associated Press interview Sunday whether he thinks the American military should remain in Iraq beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline. Melkert leaves Iraq on Monday.

He cited concerns about tensions between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq's north, and said security forces made up of soldiers from both ethnic backgrounds must continue to work together, even if the Americans leave.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments are negotiating over how many American troops might stay beyond the end of the year, and what their roles would be, in a mission that has already lasted more than eight years.

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