Secretary of State Colin Powell emphatically said yesterday that if the incoming Iraqi interim government ordered the departure of foreign troops after June 30, they would pack up without protest, but emphasized he doubted such a request would be made.
Powell said the United States believes a U.N. resolution passed last year and Iraqi administrative law provide necessary authority for coalition forces — currently numbering about 170,000 — to remain even beyond the scheduled June 30 handover of limited sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
"We're there to support the Iraqi people and protect them and the new government," Powell said at a news conference with other foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations. "I have no doubt the new government will welcome our presence and am losing no sleep over whether they will ask us to stay."
But were the new government to say it could handle security, "then we would leave," Powell said.