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Iraq not under `occupation,' U.S. says

March 30, 2007|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday rejected Saudi King Abdullah's charge that Iraq is under an "illegitimate foreign occupation," and said U.S. troops were there at Iraq's invitation under a United Nations mandate.

"It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Abdullah surprised Washington on Wednesday by saying at an Arab summit, "In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war."

Perino said the United States and Saudi Arabia have a close and cooperative relationship but made it clear that the Bush administration did not agree with the king's statement.

"When it comes to the coalition forces being in Iraq, we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and at the invitation of the Iraqi people," she said.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, testifying before the Senate, acknowledged that the administration was "a little surprised to see those remarks" and would seek clarification.

In Riyadh, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said, "This presence is sanctioned by the international community and Security Council resolutions and with consent and support of Iraqi people and Iraqi government."

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