Page last updated at 20:54 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 21:54 UK

Obama urges political fix in Iraq

Barack Obama
Barack Obama repeated his goal of withdrawing US troops from Iraq

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has said security in Iraq has improved but the country's needs must now be addressed politically.

The Illinois senator was speaking in Amman, Jordan, in the first news conference of his trip abroad.

Earlier, Mr Obama held talks with Sunni tribal leaders in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

After meeting Jordan's King Abdullah, Mr Obama flew on to Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Ahead of his arrival, he condemned Tuesday's attack by a Palestinian man using a mechanical digger in central Jerusalem - which was carried out near the hotel where Mr Obama is staying.

He said that, if elected, he would work from his first day in office to secure a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, but he warned there were no quick solutions.

Withdrawal timetable

In Amman, Mr Obama said of Iraq: "There is security progress, but now we need a political solution."

He repeated his goal of withdrawing US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months should he become president.

There is a suspicion... that the Obama campaign sees the foreign media... as simply too risky to have close at hand
BBC's James Coomarasamy
On tour with Barack Obama

However, he said he would consult with military commanders to determine how many troops to keep in the country to protect humanitarian operations, to train Iraqis and to conduct operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In Anbar, Mr Obama met militiamen of the US-backed Awakening Councils movement - a tribal alliance whose members turned against al-Qaeda last year.

Ahmed Abu Risha, head of the Awakening Councils, said tribal chiefs had told Mr Obama at their meeting in Ramadi that any withdrawal of US forces from Anbar should be carried out cautiously.

On Monday, Mr Obama, part of a US congressional delegation, met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in Baghdad.

Mr Maliki told Mr Obama and other US senators on Monday that he hoped US troops could be withdrawn from Iraq by 2010, a goal not too distant from Mr Obama's.

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said that Mr Obama had been "completely wrong" to press for withdrawal timetables, the Associated Press news agency reported.

"When you win wars, troops come home," he said.

The Bush administration is committed to removing US troops from Iraq only when it determines that conditions on the ground allow it.

However, last week, the US and Iraqi governments agreed to include a "general time horizon" for troop withdrawal in a long-term security deal currently being discussed.

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