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MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian foreign minister said on Wednesday that setting a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq could help stabilize the situation in the country.
"We understand the position taken by the Iraqi government that without foreign troops they cannot resolve security problems. However, we still think that it would be right to set some approximate timetable for pulling out the troops," Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Moscow at a press conference.
"This could somehow calm the situation down," Lavrov said adding that "national reconciliation" in Iraq was the key to solving the current conflict.
"More decisive steps are needed for the establishment of national unity and putting an end to feuds," Lavrov said, adding that, "This can be only done through the political process."
In December, the UN Security Council approved a draft resolution extending the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq by another year.
In line with the document, 160,000 service personnel will remain in Iraq until the end of 2008 as "the situation in Iraq continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security."
The draft resolution states that troops can only be withdrawn earlier than this if the Iraqi authorities make a request to the UN.
In an interview with Time magazine published in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the United States to set an exact date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Putin also said that he agreed with U.S. President George Bush's statement that it was necessary to help the Iraqi authorities establish an army, security service and police force and eventually transfer the responsibility for decision making on these issues to the Iraqi people.
"George [Bush]... does not believe it is possible to set a deadline to withdraw international troops from Iraqi territory. In my opinion, it would be better to do so, as this would make the Iraqi leadership itself more active," Putin also commented.
Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq quickly sank into a bloody spiral of sectarian violence from which it has yet to fully emerge.
A recent USA Today / Gallup poll reported that almost 60% of Americans believe the United States should set a timetable to withdraw forces from Iraq, "and stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq." 70% of Iraqis in a WPO poll favored setting a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.