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Carter wants U.S. troops out of Iraq in one year

Amit Baruah

Photo: AFP

FOR A CAUSE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the former United States President, Jimmy Carter, in New Delhi on Friday. Mr. Carter is here in connection with a project to build low-cost houses for the poor in Maharashtra and for those hit by tsunami in 2004.

NEW DELHI: The former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, who has consistently opposed the invasion of Iraq, said on Friday that American troops should be pulled out of the West Asian nation in one year. However, he pointed out that the Bush administration had so far presented no timetable for any withdrawal.

Mr. Carter, who last visited India as President in January 1978, also expressed opposition to the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear understanding, suggesting that New Delhi should accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Taking questions at a press interaction, Mr. Carter, who is a nuclear engineer by training, said he had read with great interest a recent statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the civilian nuclear deal.

Given that the Prime Minister had stated there should be no deviation from the July 2005 joint statement and the possibility that the U.S. Congress would draft its own law on the issue, Mr. Carter said if that took place then he didn't know what might happen to the deal.

Mr. Carter, however, emphasised that he was speaking as a private citizen. "I'm not here to get India to change its position [on the nuclear deal]," he said.

He will travel later to Mumbai to witness the construction of houses for the poor by an American voluntary organisation and visit parts of India hit by the tsunami in 2004.

Mr. Carter said that Iraq had interrupted what Washington was trying to do in Afghanistan — the rooting out of the Al-Qaeda presence.

Supporting a "wall" being built between the U.S. Government and religious organisations, he said he wasn't happy with the links that had been built between these two entities in the past five years.

Calling for a major international conference on Iraq, which must include American touch-me-nots like Iran and Syria, he said the country could be rebuilt after the U.S. withdrew its control.

Asked what lesson the U.S. could learn from the invasion, he said America must understand that it could not impose its system of governance on others.

While regretting the North Korean decision to test a nuclear weapon, Mr. Carter, who mediated between Washington and Pyongyang back in 1994, said that direct talks should be held between the two sides to address the latest crisis. He wanted the U.S. to extend an assurance to North Korea that Washington would not launch a military attack if Pyongyang remained peaceful. Charging that North Korea was an isolated, paranoid State, Mr. Carter said it had formidable military capabilities.

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