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Failure of pact threatens Iraq's progress: US military

File image courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Oct 29, 2008
The US military warned on Wednesday that the failure to sign the much debated military deal between Washington and Baghdad threatens to derail security progress made so far in Iraq.

"You pull one pillar out, you seriously degrade efforts of others," US military spokesman Brigadier General David Perkins said about what could happen if American forces had to stop operating in Iraq if case the deal fails.

The security agreement, which has been under discussion for months, will determine the future of US troops in Iraq beyond December 2008 when the present UN mandate expires.

Under the current proposal US forces would be granted legal tenure to operate in Iraq for three more years.

"We need to have authority to continue activities. We need to have legal authority to carry out security operations," Perkins told reporters.

He said the absence of such legal authority would derail the gains achieved in Iraq, including halting "economic activities... and flow of foreign investments."

The latest draft of the pact says American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by 2009 and from the whole country by 2011.

It also gives Iraq the power to prosecute US soldiers accused of committing serious crimes outside their bases and when off duty.

US negotiators are still focused on how to get the deal signed, Perkins said.

"Nobody wants to turn the clock back. This is a win-win situation. Our partnership will be even stronger," he said.

On Wednesday, Washington's envoy in Baghdad Ryan Crocker met Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to discuss the accord, a statement from Zebari's office said.

The Iraqi cabinet, which has made new demands over the draft, on Tuesday authorised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to re-negotiate it.

The White House said on Tuesday that incorporating new modifications into the current deal was unlikely.

On Wednesday US President George W. Bush said in Washington he was "very hopeful and confident" about the prospects for the pact but warned against making changes that may undermine it.

"We want to be helpful and constructive without undermining basic principles and I remain very hopeful and confident that the SOFA will get passed," he said of the draft Status of Forces Agreement.

Perkins also accused Tehran of interfering in the bilateral negotiations on the security pact.

"Iran has tried to interfere in the bilateral discussions between Washington and Baghdad," he said.

"Recent statements by some Iranian leaders are not helpful to the bilateral negotiations. Such external influencing statements are not respectful of the sovereignty of the countries involved in the negotiations."

Meanwhile Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said the security deal would prevent the US military from launching attacks on Iraq's neighbours.

Rubaie is part of the Iraqi team negotiating the accord with the Americans.

"There is a very clear article in the SOFA draft that says the US cannot, should not, launch any operation from Iraqi soil against other countries," Rubaie told reporters in the central city of Kut.

His comments followed the weekend raid by US troops on a village in northeast Syria which Damascus said killed eight civilians.

A US official on Monday said the incursion targeted a top Iraqi smuggler of foreign fighters who used the area just inside Syria to launch attacks.

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

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