Source AP ©

U.S. presidential candidate Giuliani discusses war with Iraqi president

Rudy Giuliani, Republican U.S. presidential candidate met privately with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and indicated that he would keep a U.S. presence in Iraq for as long as necessary, campaign aides said.

The former New York mayor is one of the few Republican candidates who has never been to Iraq. Talabani, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, provided what Giuliani aides described as an optimistic report about progress in the region during the meeting Wednesday.

Giuliani, in turn, emphasized his support for a unified Iraq and indicated that he would keep a U.S. presence in that country for as long as necessary, aides said.

A front-runner among the Republicans running for president next year, Giuliani has long backed the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq as well as this year's troop buildup. He often deflects questions about the war, deferring to military commanders, and has waded less into the specifics of how he would handle the conflict if he were to win the presidency.

Also Wednesday, Giuliani's campaign said its top finance official, deputy campaign manager for finance Anne Dunsmore, had left the operation. Aides said the departure, days before the Sept. 30 deadline for reporting fundraising for the third quarter of the year, was amicable and unrelated to fundraising.

Jim Lee will now serve as national co-chair and head the finance operation.