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Last updated: August 25, 2008 10:24 pm
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq prime minister, said on Monday that the Bush administration had agreed to withdraw all US troops from the country by the end of 2011.
Speaking before a gathering of tribal leaders in the heavily fortified green zone in Baghdad, Mr Maliki for the first time confirmed the deadline for a troop withdrawal, which is included in a draft US-Iraqi security agreement.
US and Iraqi officials said last week that negotiators had reached an agreement for the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities by next year, and then for the rest to pull out by 2011 if the security situation was stable enough.
But Mr Maliki’s remarks suggest the Iraq government is pushing for further concessions. Mr Maliki demanded the withdrawal of all troops – not only combat forces – and said the deadlines must be firm, appearing to reject what US officials have called a “time horizon” for a draw down.
“Iraq will not conclude any agreement or any treaty except when it is based on full sovereignty and on the condition that no foreign soldiers shall remain in Iraq,” Mr Maliki said. He added that the agreement must be “based on a specific time deadline for the withdrawal of foreign forces so that the time period shall not remain open”.
Mr Maliki said the treaty will go to parliament for approval but alterations must be made to the draft to ensure its passage. “Unless there are changes, it will be difficult to have the agreement approved,” he said.
“There is still disagreement between both sides.”
Mr Maliki said one of the sticking points was over whether US troops and private contractors would be granted immunity from Iraqi law. “We will not jeopardise the blood of Iraq’s sons by giving open immunity,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad declined to comment on Mr Maliki’s remarks.
Additional reporting by K I Ibrahim and Zaid Sabah
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