Iraq's al-Maliki wants short-term US agreement
BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister says he is discussing a short-term memorandum of understanding with U.S. officials instead of trying to hammer through a formal agreement on the presence of American forces in the country.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government proposed the memorandum after widespread opposition to U.S. demands made in talks on a formal Status of Forces Agreement. The agreement would keep U.S. troops in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires at year's end.
Al-Maliki says the proposed memorandum includes a formula for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
President Bush has said he opposes the idea of a specific timetable.
Al-Maliki's comments Monday came in a meeting with several Arab ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates in that country's capital, Abu Dhabi.
Pentagon rebuffs Iraqis on withdrawal timetable
WASHINGTON (AFP) - In a rebuff to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Pentagon said Monday that any timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq would depend on conditions on the ground there.
Maliki told Arab ambassadors on Monday he was pressing for such a timetable in negotiations with Washington on an agreement on the status of US forces in Iraq beyond 2008.
Asked about the prime minister's comments, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters: "With respect to timetables I would say the same thing I would say as respects to the security situation -- it is dependent on conditions on the ground."
Whitman said the United States had made clear "that we have no long term desires to have forces permanently stationed in Iraq."
"But timelines tend to be artificial in nature," he said. "In a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would just tell you, it's usually best to look at these things based on conditions on the ground."
Maliki's comments to Arab ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates marked the first time he has specifically demanded a timetable for a US withdrawal.
"The direction we are taking is to have a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to have a timetable for their withdrawal," a statement from Maliki's office quoted him as saying.
"The negotiations are still continuing with the American side, but in any case the basis for the agreement will be respect for the sovereignty of Iraq," he added.
Chomsky audio interview on Iraq.
Afshin Rattansi interviews Noam Chomsky June 2008