Iraq PM: US agrees to withdraw troops by 2011

Iraq and the United States have agreed that a planned security pact will require all US troops to leave by the end of 2011, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday, while Washington said no final deal had been reached.

”There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” al-Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

”Yes, there is major progress on the issue of the negotiations on the security deal,” al-Maliki said.

The Iraqi government had proposed in bilateral talks that US troops end patrols of Iraqi towns and villages by the middle of next year, and that US combat troops leave Iraq by 2011, under a pact that will govern their presence after 2008.

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Robert Wood said there had been a draft agreement but that it needed to ”go through a number of levers in the Iraqi political system before we actually have an agreement from the Iraqi side”.

”Until we have a deal, we don’t have a deal,” he said.

He declined to comment on the 2011 withdrawal date.

The administration of US President George Bush has sought to avoid fixed timetables, but al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government has been increasingly assertive in seeking assurances surrounding the exit of the approximately 144 000 US troops stationed in Iraq.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a visit to Baghdad last week that a deal was close, but not yet final.

The pact is needed to replace a UN Security Council resolution adopted after the US-led invasion in 2003, which has formed the legal basis for the American troop presence ever since, but expires at the end of this year.

Iraqi officials say a draft agreement was completed last week and must now be circulated to political leaders for approval before it can be submitted to Parliament next month. — Reuters

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