President Bush says the United States will pull its troops from Iraq if the government that comes to power in Sunday's elections asks for a withdrawal.

However, the president says he expects the new leadership to ask coalition troops to remain "at least until Iraqis are able to fight."

In an interview appearing in today's (Friday's) New York Times, Mr. Bush says most Iraqi leaders he has spoken with say there is more work to be done before Iraqis are ready to handle their own security.

The interview took place Thursday -- the same day a top U.S. lawmaker called on the president to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

Senator Edward Kennedy (of Massachusetts) says at least 12,000 troops should leave at once, with a complete withdrawal "as early as possible" next year.

Mr. Kennedy says the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq "is fanning the flames of conflict."

raqis living abroad have begun casting ballots in their country's national election, even as insurgents in Iraq continued deadly attacks intended to stop voting there on Sunday.

Iraqi exiles are voting today (Friday) in a number of Western and Middle Eastern countries (Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States).

In Iraq, police say a car bomb explosion today near a police station in southern Baghdad killed at least four people.

Insurgents have stepped up attacks on Iraqi police and government officials in their effort to ruin Sunday's election. They have also targeted schools and other buildings slated to be used as voting centers.

Iraqi Minister of State Kasim Daoud stressed that strict security measures are being implemented for the election. He added that Syria has not positively responded to Iraq's request to tighten security along its borders to prevent insurgents from entering Iraq. Mr. Daoud also accused Iran of interfering in Iraq.