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    Bush meets Barzani, confident U.S.-Iraq pact will pass

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    30.10.2008 - 11:13 | Son Güncelleme:

    The U.S. is confident a security pact with Iraq will be approved despite the changes Baghdad wants to make to the deal that would govern U.S. presence in Iraq after the end of the year, President George W. Bush said during a meeting with the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.

    The Iraqi Cabinet this week authorized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reopen talks with the United States on an agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for three more years after their U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31.   

    Bush said the U.S. had received and negotiators were analyzing the Iraqis proposed amendments to the so-called Status of Forces Agreement.

    "We obviously want to be helpful and constructive without undermining basic principles," Bush was quoted by AP as saying at the White House during a meeting with Barzani, the leader of Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq. "I remain very open and confident that the SOFA will get passed."

    The Iraqis are seeking four changes to the deal, including one concerning judicial jurisdiction that they acknowledge would be difficult for the Americans to accept.

    The U.S. has said previously that it had made its final offer to the Iraqis, but the administration is continuing to entertain revisions.

    "The bar to any revisions is very high," AP quoted State Department spokesman Sean McCormack as saying.

    "All of that said, this is a serious negotiation process on a serious issue and we will take seriously any comments from the Iraqis. We will do a thoughtful, thorough review of them and then provide them a response."

    "There is a still a lot of life left in the process and it’s really the focus of our efforts."

    Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the U.S. would be hesitant to restart broad negotiations with the Iraqis, but is willing to take a look at the Iraqis proposed changes.

    He added that while the U.S. prefers to get the security agreement approved, officials have been encouraged by statements made by Russian officials that Moscow would support the extension of the current U.N. mandate if the pact is not approved by the end of the year.

    Morrell also reiterated the Pentagons worries about renewed violence if an agreement is not reached by years end and U.S. forces are not able to operate legally in Iraq. "Gains that have been made will start to unravel potentially because we don’t have a legal mandate to operate," Morrell said.

    Photo: AA


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