(AFP) – Sep 24, 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) — US officials negotiating a controversial security pact with Iraq have returned to Baghdad to resume discussions which have been deadlocked since early September, a US official said on Wednesday.
"The team has returned to continue the negotiations," US embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh told AFP, declining to give details on the contents of the talks.
Washington and Baghdad are trying to hammer out a deal that would lay the framework for the future of US forces in the violence-wracked country after 2008 when a UN mandate governing their presence expires.
Negotiations became deadlocked in early September after Iraqi officials demanded that Iraqi authorities must be allowed to prosecute American troops committing "grave and intentional mistakes" in the country.
US soldiers currently are immune from Iraqi law.
The US negotiators left for Washington earlier this month seeking advice over how to respond to the demand but are now back in the country.
Last week Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had warned that the security pact was facing "serious and dangerous obstacles," indicating the growing impatience of Baghdad.
Aside from the immunity question, there are also disputes over who will command military operations in Iraq from next year and the right of US forces to detain Iraqi citizens.
Maliki, who had initially agreed with US President George W. Bush to sign a deal by the end of July, has said both sides have agreed to withdraw US combat forces from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by 2011.
Iraq's deputy speaker of parliament Sheikh Khalid al-Attiya said the Iraqis hoped the US officials would respond positively to Baghdad's demands.
"If they have a positive response, we too would be positive," he told AFP.
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