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Iraq official: US, Iraq finish draft security deal

Iraq official: US, Iraq finish draft security deal

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have finished a draft agreement that would see all American troops removed from Iraqi cities by June 30, an Iraqi official said Wednesday. But the draft has not been approved by the Cabinet and some members have expressed opposition.
The official, who has been involved in the protracted negotiations, said the agreement calls for all American troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
He said a compromise was reached on the contentious issue of immunity for American troops but did not give details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not supposed to release the information.
Although the Iraqi negotiators had signed off on the draft, another official close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the country's political leadership objected to parts of the text, including the immunity provision.
"There are different points of view," he said. "We have given ours. The other side has given theirs."
He would not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The agreement would govern the status of the 14,000-strong U.S. military force after the U.N. Security Council mandate expires at the end of the year.
President George W. Bush had refused to accept any timetable for bringing U.S. troops home. Last month, however, Bush and al-Maliki agreed to set a "general time horizon" for ending the U.S. mission.
Bush's shift to a timeline was seen as a move to speed agreement on the security pact.
But Iraq's Shiite-led government has been holding firm for some sort of withdrawal schedule _ a move the Iraqis said was essential to win parliamentary approval. Talks were supposed to have been finished by the end of last month but differences over major issues including immunity have blocked progress.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that some progress has been made on the timelines for troop withdrawals but that the immunity issue remained a huge problem. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations have not been finished.
As the talks dragged on, American officials said the Bush administration was losing patience with the Iraqis over the negotiations.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and al-Maliki had a long and "very difficult" phone conversation about the situation early this month during which she pressed the Iraqi leader for more flexibility particularly on immunity, one U.S. senior official said.
"The sovereignty issue is very big for the Iraqis and we understand that. But we are losing patience," the official said. "The process needs to get moving and get moving quickly."
The official could not say how long the call lasted but said it was "not brief" and "tense at times."
Iraq's position in the U.S. talks hardened after a series of Iraqi military successes against Shiite and Sunni extremists in Basra, Baghdad, Mosul and other major cities and after the rise in world oil prices flooded the country with petrodollars.
As the government's confidence rose, Iraqi officials believed they were in a strong negotiating position _ especially with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, pledging to remove all combat forces within his first 16 months in office if security conditions allow.


Updated : 2021-05-16 06:05 GMT+08:00