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Barzani says Iraq-US security pact dominates his talks with Rice

Massud Barzani. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2008
Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's northern Kurdish government, said his talks on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice focused on a controversial draft Iraq-US military pact.

"The issue of the strategic agreement was the main theme of the meeting," Barzani told reporters following his talks with Rice in Washington, adding it was "discussed in detail."

However, Barzani said he had no details about proposed changes to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that is designed to lay out the rights and responsibilities of US forces in Iraq after a UN mandate expires at the end of the year.

"I'm not aware of the latest amendments because I was traveling during the meeting," he added.

The Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday authorised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to negotiate changes in the security pact.

The cabinet last week decided to seek changes to the deal, the latest draft of which stipulates that American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by December 2011.

The draft also offers powers to the Iraqis to prosecute American soldiers and civilians for "serious crimes" committed outside their bases and when off-duty.

On Tuesday, the White House poured cold water on Iraq's push to reopen talks on the accord, with spokeswoman Dana Perino saying, "the door is pretty much shut on these negotiations."

Barzani said he and Rice also discussed the situation involving Iraq, the Kurds and Turkey.

Turkish troops have stepped up operations against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) rebels -- both inside Turkey and in northern Iraq -- since October 3.

Ankara has often accused the Iraqi Kurds, who run an autonomous administration led by Barzani in the region, of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, but has said it will still pursue talks with them to resolve the problem.

"We discussed the positive developments that we see in the interests of both sides," Barzani said without elaborating.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said last week that Ankara was considering a proposal by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani for three-way talks with Baghdad and Washington to outline fresh measures to purge the PKK bases in northern Iraq.

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Pentagon on guard for White House wartime transition
Washington (AFP) Oct 27, 2008
The Pentagon has been preparing for months for the first wartime change of presidents in 40 years, a period of heightened vulnerability that, if history is a guide, US adversaries will try to exploit.







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