A protester holds up a placard, dressed as US President Donald Trump in Trafalgar Square during a demonstration against the threat of war on Iran, in central London on January 11, 2020.
A protester holds up a placard, dressed as US President Donald Trump in Trafalgar Square during a demonstration against the threat of war on Iran, in central London on January 11, 2020.
Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Washington: The US State Department has said that any delegation going to Iraq would not discuss the American troops withdrawal from Iraq, rejecting the Baghdad government's earlier request that the two sides have started working on such a process.

"At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East," State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

US military presence in the country is to continue the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and to protect Americans, Iraqis and coalition partners, Xinhua news agency quoted Ortagus as saying.

The comment followed a phone conversation earlier in the day between Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which the former requested Washington "to send delegates to Iraq to lay down mechanisms for implementing the Iraqi parliament resolution to withdraw forces safely from Iraq".

The phone call came amid immense tensions between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

On January 5, the Iraqi Parliament had passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq, two days after the US killing of Qasem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, near the Baghdad airport.

On Wednesday, Iran retaliated the killing by launching 16 ballistic missiles on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq, which President Donald Trump said caused no American or Iraqi casualties.

Trump threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Iraq if Baghdad and Washington failed to solve the pullout issue on "a very friendly basis".

Roughly 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the the country's forces in the battles against the IS militants.

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