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Putin says US should set date for withdrawing from Iraq

Russia President Vladimir Putin said the United States should set a firm date for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, otherwise the Iraqi leadership will do little to reorganize its armed forces, Kremlin said in a statement released Thursday.

Putin made the comments to a group of visiting international academics on Friday during a meeting in the Black Sea port of Sochi. The Kremlin released a transcript of Putin's remarks on Thursday.

"I agree with President Bush that it is possible, and necessary, to withdraw only when the Iraqi leadership itself, the Iraqi government, will be able to guarantee its internal security," Putin said, according to the transcript.

"Where exactly do we differ? I consider that it is better anyway to set a certain date for withdrawal because as long as it is not clear when American forces will leave Iraq, there will be no internal motivation for the Iraqi leadership to deal with organization of its army and its security services," Putin said.

Russia has been a consistent critic of the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq. Putin has been openly critical of the U.S.-led campaign there, and of U.S. foreign policy more broadly.