| GEO World|
| US planning 'long-term stay' in Iraq: Iran|
| Updated at: 0305 PST, Sunday, March 01, 2009|
TEHRAN: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday accused Washington of planning a "long-term stay" in Iraq after US President Barrack Obama said up to 50,000 combat troops will remain until 2011.
"The occupiers are preparing the ground for their long-term stay in Iraq which is a great danger and the Iraqi authorities should be aware of this danger," Khamenei told visiting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the ISNA news agency reported.
"The occupying troops should exit Iraq as soon as possible, since any day of delay is a loss for the Iraqi people," he was quoted as telling the Iraqi leader. "The presence of US and British forces and advisers harms Iraq."
Shiite majority Iran has always been vocal in demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from its neighbour, where Shiites are also the biggest community.
Obama on Friday ordered an end within 18 months to US military operations in Iraq.
However he also said up to US 50,000 troops, compared with the current 142,000-strong force, will remain until the end of 2011, nearly nine years after his predecessor George W. Bush ordered an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.