Iraqi PM backs indefinite U.S. troop presence in country: WSJ interview

FILE PHOTO: Germany's Chancellor Scholz and Iraq's PM al-Sudani hold news conference in Berlin

(Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani defended the presence of U.S. troops in his country and set no timetable for their withdrawal, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday.

Referring to the U.S. and NATO troop contingents that train and assist Iraqi units in countering Islamic State but largely stay out of combat, Sudani said that the foreign forces are still needed. "Elimination of ISIS needs some more time," he said in the interview.

Sudani, who took office last October, told the Wall Street Journal that he planned to send a high-level delegation to Washington for talks with U.S. officials next month, adding that Iraq would like similar relations with Washington to those enjoyed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil and gas producers.

"I don’t see this as an impossible matter, to see Iraq have a good relationship with Iran and the U.S.," Sudani told the newspaper.

(Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Fenton)