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Iraqi Prime Minister Lambastes U.S.

"There is no intent to bring more U.S. troops into Iraq at this time," the statement said. "The General was merely saying, as he has said consistently since taking command of the Multi-National Force Iraq, that all options are on the table. He will ask for what is needed. He has made no such request to date."

In his remarks Tuesday, Casey said that he did not want to go into specifics about how better security and services would be brought to Baghdad, adding: "Now, do we need more troops to do that? Maybe. And as I've said all along, if we do, I will ask for the troops I need, both coalition and Iraqi."

Casey elaborated later, saying if he needed more troops, he could draw them from Iraqi forces, U.S. forces already in Iraq or U.S. forces outside the theater.

Despite his tough reaction to suggestions that his government would bow to benchmarks and timelines to rein in militias, Maliki reiterated at his news conference Wednesday for the second time in as many days that his government intends to crack down on illegal armed groups.

"The state is the only one that has the right to carry weapons," he said. "We will deal with anybody who is outside the law. Everyone now realizes that the existence of armed groups and militias harms the stability and unity of the state."

He also appealed to Iraq's neighbors to stop meddling in his country's affairs, and he blamed foreign fighters and supporters of ex-leader Saddam Hussein for fomenting the current violence.

"I would like to state here that the root of the battle we are fighting in Iraq and the root of the bloody cycle that we are undergoing is the presence of terror organizations that have arrived in the country," Maliki said.

Special correspondent Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.


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