August 25, 2008

U.S., Iraq Say Security Pact Not Done Deal

Iraq and the United States agreed on a withdrawal date for U.S. combat troops but several obstacles remain, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

Maliki discussed the departure date in a speech Monday to tribal leaders in Baghdad. The New York Times reported. U.S. President George Bush, who has resisted a firm schedule for combat troop withdrawal, and others within the administration stress the agreement is only a draft.

The security agreement needs to be completed and approved by the end of the year so U.S. forces can remain in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires.

"There is actually an agreement concluded between the two parties over the definite date, which is 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said.

Discussions continue because "we have not yet finalized an agreement," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday. "We're optimistic that Iraq and the U.S. can reach a mutual agreement on flexible goals for U.S. troops to continue to return on success -- based on conditions on the ground -- and allow Iraqi forces to provide security for a sovereign Iraq."

Maliki said sticking points include situations under which U.S. military personnel would be granted immunity and whether Iraqi detainees would be remain in U.S. custody.

"There are some articles on which we are stopped," he said. "Unless these articles are changed, it will be hard for this agreement to pass."