( Rawstory ) - The United States could withdraw more than 100,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008 but should retain three permanent bases, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Sunday.
Interviewed on CNN in Washington, Talabani also backed a US Senate plan to decentralize Iraq along ethnic lines, but the ethnic Kurd said he opposed an independent Kurdistan.
"More than 100,000 can be back by the end of the next year," he said of the US troop presence in Iraq, which would leave about 30,000 personnel once a limited withdrawal planned by US President George W. Bush is complete.
Iraqi forces are making good progress which could allow US troops to begin a partial withdrawal from Iraq earlier than planned, Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al- Rubaie said Friday.
At White House talks Tuesday, Talabani and Bush discussed sluggish progress towards legislation to share oil revenues among Iraq's sectarian groups and rehabilitate former members of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath regime.
Talabani told CNN that he wanted the United States to retain three permanent bases in northern, central and southern Iraq to train Iraqi forces "and preventing our neighbors from interfering."
"Of course, Iran included, we don't want Iran to interfere in our internal affairs. We want good relations with Iran," he said, while opposing a call from the US Congress to label Iran's Revolutionary Guards a "terrorist organization."
Talabani did back a US Senate vote last month to subdivide Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni entities, with a federal government in Baghdad in charge of border security and oil revenues.
The plan is opposed by the White House and by Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki , but the Iraqi president said it merited careful consideration.
A close reading of the Senate's non-binding resolution shows that "in every article that it is insisting on the unity of Iraq, of the security of Iraq, of the prosperity of Iraq, of national reconciliation and asking our neighbors not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq," Talabani said.
In any case, Iraq's Kurdistan regional government last week announced four more oil deals, ignoring criticism from Maliki's government and Washington that it is unilaterally selling off the country's national resources.
But Talabani stressed: "There is no possibility of having independent Kurdistan for many reasons."
Regional powers with their own Kurdish minorities such as Turkey, Iran, and Syria would "send arms to fight that," he said, and the Kurdish people's best interest lies in a "democratic, federal regime in Iraq."