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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Iraq leader says troops must stay
Tony Blair and Jalal Talabani
Jalal Talabani (right) also met Tony Blair at Downing Street
US and British troops will need to stay another one or two years in Iraq, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said.

Mr Talabani was addressing students during a visit to Cambridge University.

Asked when the UK and US should leave, he said: "I think in one or two years we will be able to recruit our own army forces and say goodbye to our friends."

He added that he considered Prime Minister Tony Blair to be a "hero" and said he hoped Gordon Brown would continue his work.

In the latest violence in Iraq, twin suicide bombings in south-eastern Baghdad have killed 22 people and injured 60. The victims include police officers, Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

The attacks happened on two bridges in the capital which form a key route out of the south of the city.

'Great leader'

After a meeting with Mr Blair at 10 Downing Street, Mr Talabani said Mr Blair was a "dear friend" and a "great leader".

I think it was a very noble job that your army and your people did in Iraq
Jalal Talabani

The Iraqi president expressed his sympathy towards the families of British forces killed in his country, who he said had died for a just cause.

He said: "I am very, very sorry for the lives lost in Iraq."

"I think it was a very noble job that your army and your people did in Iraq."

Mr Talabani urged US politicians to reconsider plans to begin withdrawing their forces from his country.

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed a draft bill that would provide funding for troops in Iraq only until July.

Mr Talabani told reporters: "We are concerned. We hope that Congress will review this decision and help the American army to stay until the Iraqi army will be able to replace them and to protect the security of Iraq."

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