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Iraq will ask the US to keep troops in the country beyond an end-of-2011 pullout deadline, says the nominee to be the next US defence secretary.
Outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta said he had "every confidence that a request like that will be forthcoming".
"It's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of [troop] presence to remain there [in Iraq]," Mr Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
He said that whether that happened depended on what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki might ask for.
But if Baghdad did make such a request, he added, Washington should say yes.
He said there were still some 1,000 al-Qaeda members in Iraq, and the situation remained "fragile".