Iraq 'troop pullout by 2011'
Baghdad, August 23, 2008
A draft agreement between the US and Iraq contains no fixed dates for US forces to withdraw, but Iraq would like combat troops out by the end of 2011, government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said.
He said Iraqi negotiators were proposing US troops end patrols of Iraqi towns and villages by the middle of next year and US combat troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011, according to a report on Saturday in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
But he made clear those deadlines were not yet fixed, and represented the government's negotiating position, not an explicitly agreed text.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Thursday to help seal the deal, a draft of which is being circulated among Iraqi politicians for approval.
She said the deal was 'close' and the White House said it hoped it would be reached soon.
The long-awaited pact will allow US forces to stay in Iraq beyond the end of this year, when a UN Security Council mandate enacted after the US-led invasion in 2003 expires.
US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki spoke by secure video as talks continued.
In Iraq, several thousand supporters of anti-US cleric Moqtada Al Sadr protested against the emerging agreement, saying it would turn Iraq into a US colony.
And, White House hopeful Barack Obama said the deal exposed his rival John McCain's, pictured, war plan as mere 'bluster' and divorced from reality.
The Democratic presidential candidate argued the proposed pact vindicated his own longtime call for troop pullouts, and argued that it undercut Republican McCain's criticism of his own call for even faster withdrawals. - TradeArabia News service