United Nations: The UN Security Council agreed to an Iraqi request to extend the mandate of the US-led multinational force after the country's foreign minister said the troops were "vitally necessary" for Iraq's security and regional stability.
Hoshyar Zebari called the council's statement "very positive for Iraq," saying all members understood "what the Iraqi government is facing" which was illustrated by
the bombing Wednesday of Samarra's revered Shiite shrine by "terrorists ... seeking to destroy the fabric of Iraqi society."
The resolution adopted by the Security Council last year extending the mandate of the multinational force for one year starting on December 31 authorized a review of the mandate by June 15.
At an open council meeting, Zebari told members that despite the senseless violence "the government has made tremendous strides toward the day when security will be provided by a self-sufficient, Iraqi national security force."
"While Iraqis will always be grateful for their liberation from an absolute despot, no Iraqi government official - indeed, no Iraqi citizen - wants the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil one day longer than is vitally necessary," he said.
"But today, and for the foreseeable months at least, the presence of (multinational) troops is vitally necessary not only for Iraq but also to safeguard regional security and
stability," Zebari said.
In its statement, the Security Council said "as requested by the government of Iraq ... the members of the council agreed upon the continuation of the (multinational force)