Top Sunni asked Bush for pullout timeline
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's vice president has asked President Bush for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the Iraqi president's office said.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, made the request during his meeting with Bush on Tuesday, when the U.S. president made a surprise visit to Iraq.
"I supported him in this," President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi's representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Bush made it clear during his visit that the U.S. military presence - now at about 132,000 troops - would continue, though he stressed the fate of the Iraqis was in their own hands.
**continue DESPITE being asked for a timeline for them leaving?**
Al-Hashimi also said there were "promises to free about 3,500 detainees" by June 26, the statement from Talabani's office said. That number that would be above the 2,500 to be freed as part of a bid by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to soothe Sunni Arabs over allegations of random detentions and maltreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government.
More than 450 detainees were being released Thursday as part of al-Maliki's national reconciliation efforts, according to the U.S. military.
The vice president also complained about a number of covert prisons run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry "where many violations are committed," according to the statement from the president's office.
Such detention centers have been discovered in recent months and al-Hashimi said they "contradict the principles on which the new Iraqi is being built and quick steps should be taken to close them."
The vice president stressed the need for an "emergency plan to tackle the overall issue of detainees (held by) the interior and defense ministries" and for the release of all detainees held without cause, the statement said.