(AFP) – Aug 24, 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is demanding changes to a draft deal on the status of US forces beyond this year, a key Shiite ally in the governing coalition said on Sunday.
"There are points in the agreement that are still pending and they can't be approved without changes in order to preserve the complete sovereignty of Iraq," the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) quoted Maliki as telling fellow Shiite politicians at a meeting on Saturday.
Iraq's chief negotiator Mohammed al-Haj Hammoud had told AFP on Friday that the two negotiating teams had finalised a 27-point deal to put before the two governments and it was now up to the leaders to take a decision.
Hammoud said that the agreement had already been endorsed by US President George W. Bush, although a White House spokesman later said that the discussions were still ongoing.
The statement from the office of SIIC's leader Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Hakim said Maliki's comments came at a meeting of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite bloc that leads the government and in which the SIIC and Maliki's Dawa party are the two main factions.
"The leaders of the UIA focussed on the security agreement between the United States and Iraq in order to ensure that the deal safeguards Iraqi sovereignty and national interests," it said.
Hammoud said on Friday that the deal provides for all American combat troops to pull out of Iraqi cities by next June ahead of a complete withdrawal from Iraq by 2011.
But White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said any dates in the agreement under discussion were "aspirational timelines" rather than formal deadlines.
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