Top US commander: Some troops to stay in Iraqi cities after June

Some American troops will remain in Iraqi cities after a June 30 deadline for combat soldiers to leave urban areas, the top US commander said Saturday. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions by his own spokesman that the Iraqi government may ask some US troops to remain behind as trainers after the December 31, 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all American troops set by the new US-Iraq security agreement. Those comments are likely to rekindle debate here about the agreement, which was ratified by parliament last month and takes effect January 1, but Iraqi voters must approve the deal in a referendum by the end of July. Suggestions of loopholes in the withdrawal timeline could be exploited by Iraqi politicians seeking to undermine Maliki ahead of the referendum. A number of Sunni and Shiite politicians, as well as the powerful Shiite clergy, accepted the deal after assurances from Maliki that the timeline for the US departure was firm. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, told reporters that troops who serve in training and mentoring teams would not be included in the mandate to pull combat troops from the cities.