October 30, 2008

State Officials Reviewing Troop Level Pact

U.S. officials are reviewing the Iraqi amendments to the draft agreement on U.S. troop levels in Iraq, a State Department official said Thursday.

Spokesman Robert Wood, however, declined to discuss the nature of the amendments when asked during a news conference.

"Once we have something to say on it, we will," Wood said. "But for the moment, we're just taking our time in reviewing it to make sure that, you know, we've got a good sense of what it is the Iraqis have put forward."

The "status of forces" agreement is needed for the continued presence of 154,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after a U.N. mandate legitimizing their activities expires Dec. 31. Under a draft, U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq's main cities by the end of 2009 and from the country by 2011. Iraqis would also gain legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops who commit "serious crimes" while off duty.

"(We) think we have a good agreement," Wood said. "And the window for any kind of discussions, negotiations is, you know, rapidly coming to a close."