November 3, 2008

Iraq Says U.S. Agrees to Changes to Pact

The United States has agreed to most of the changes Iraqi leaders made to a security agreement between the two countries, the Iraqi state-run newspaper said.

Al-Sabah reported U.S. officials agreed to three of five changes Baghdad sought, but did not yield on changes to the article on immunity for troops accused of crimes in Iraq, KUNA, the Kuwaiti news agency, reported Monday.

The time frame for U.S. troop withdrawal was changed to indicate American forces would pull out of Iraq within 36 months from the agreement's implementation, KUNA reported.

Under the original draft, U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq's main cities by the end of 2009 and from the country by 2011. Iraqis would gain legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops who commit "serious crimes" while off duty.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani expressed optimism Sunday about the security agreement being approved by both governments. If the United States agrees to the the changes, Talabani said, the agreement would be "honorable."

The "status of forces" agreement is needed for the continued presence of 154,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after a U.N. mandate authorizing their activities expires Dec. 31.