US denies Iraq PM's withdrawal remarks

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday raised the prospect of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of the talks for a new agreement to replace the U.N. mandate for their occupation that expires on Dec. 31.

US denies Iraq PM's withdrawal remarks
U.S.-Iraqi talks to permit U.S. troops to stay in Iraq beyond 2008 were not aimed at setting a hard deadline for withdrawal despite such a suggestion by the Iraqi prime minister, the White House said on Tuesday.

"Negotiations and discussions are ongoing every day," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Japan, where U.S. President George W. Bush was attending the Group of Eight summit.

"It is important to understand that these are not talks on a hard date for a withdrawal," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday raised the prospect of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of the talks for a new agreement to replace the U.N. mandate for their occupation that expires on Dec. 31.

The Bush administration has adamantly opposed setting a concrete deadline for withdrawing the roughly 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Today, we are looking at the necessity of terminating the foreign presence on Iraqi lands and restoring full sovereignty," Maliki told Arab ambassadors on Monday in blunt remarks during an official visit to Abu Dhabi.

"One of the two basic topics is either to have a memorandum of understanding for the departure of forces or a memorandum of understanding to set a timetable for the presence of the forces, so that we know (their presence) will end in a specific time," he said.

The negotiations for the pact have been tense at times, with Maliki saying at one point last month that they were at a stalemate. Later he backed away from that position and the two sides said they were making some progress.

Johndroe, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday that they were striving to getting a pact by the end of July.



Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Temmuz 2008, 14:19
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