November 6, 2008

U.S. Answers Iraqi Changes to Troop Deal

The United States has responded to changes Iraqi officials made to the pact on maintaining a U.S. troop presence in Iraq, a White House spokeswoman said.

"We have gotten back to the Iraqis with a final text," Dana Perino said during a Thursday news briefing. "Through this step we've concluded the process on our side, and now it is in their court to move forward with their process."

She declined to reveal the response.

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; the Iraqi change would call for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country within 36 months from the agreement's implementation.

Also under the original draft, Iraqis would have legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops who commit "serious crimes" while off duty.

The status of forces agreement is needed for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after a United Nations mandate authorizing their activities expires Dec. 31.

"We've been trying to get it done, and we recognize that there's a deadline for when the U.N. security mandate expires. But we're moving forward," Perino said. "Now they have our response to the request of the changes that they had. So they'll move forward now."