The cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met to discuss the deal that will provide the basis for a
"The cabinet unanimously sought amendments to the text of the pact so it can be acceptable nationally," Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement after the meeting, which was also attended by
"The cabinet called on the ministers to submit their suggestions to be included in the negotiations with the
The demand for changes, which were not specified, is expected to delay significantly the signing of the deal, which still has to be approved by parliament after it has been endorsed by the cabinet.
The cabinet decision came just hours after the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, bluntly warned that
Mullen also charged that
"We are clearly running out of time," said Mullen, warning that when the current U.N. mandate governing the presence of foreign forces expires on December 31, the Iraqi military "will not be ready to provide for their security".
"And in that regard there is great potential for losses of significant consequence."
But despite a series of
Even before the cabinet decision, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari sought to dampen expectations of a swift approval of the deal.
"It is unlikely that the Iraqi parliament will approve the SOFA before the American presidential election on November 4," the website of Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya quoted Zebari as saying.
He said there were differences between
"Because of the differences among the political groups, we don’t believe the deal will be approved now.
If and when the government backs the deal, it will then be forwarded to the 275-member parliament.
Under the latest draft, Iraqi courts would have the authority to try
Sunni political groups, a minority in mainly Shiite Iraq, are concerned about an early
The minority Kurds, who hold 53 of the 275 seats in parliament but enjoy autonomy in the mainly Kurdish north, have already indicated they will back the latest draft of the deal.