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Powell predicts U.S. will maintain military presence in Iraq for years

Powell predicts U.S. will maintain military presence in Iraq for years

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LONDON - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that the United States will have a military presence in Iraq for years, although a gradual withdrawal likely will start in 2006.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Powell also said the U.S. practice of moving prisoners between countries - known as "extraordinary rendition" - was not new to European governments.

"Most of our European friends cannot be shocked that this kind of thing takes place," he said. "The fact [is] that we have, over the years, had procedures in place that would deal with people who are responsible for terrorist activities, or suspected of terrorist activities, and so the thing that is called rendition is not something that is new or unknown to my European friends."

Powell also insisted that U.S. intelligence services had not revealed their doubts to the Bush administration about the reliability of information on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

"What really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to us," Powell said, according to a transcript of the BBC interview.

Last week, Bush said the responsibility for invading Iraq, though based partly on the faulty weapons intelligence, rested solely with him.

Powell said he did not be-lieve the U.S military could sustain its current deployment "for an extended period."

"So one way or the other, I think a drawdown will begin in 2006," he said.

"But essentially just to walk away, to say that we're taking all of our troops out as fast as we can, would be a tragic mistake. It's going to be years."

Powell said the United States was widely unpopular around the world, saying "we have created an impression that we are unilateralist, we don't care what the rest of the world thinks. I don't think it's a fair impression."

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