Iraq to reject security pact without withdrawal timetable

July 9th, 2008 - 3:10 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
Baghdad, July 9 (DPA) Iraq will reject any security agreement with the US if it does not include a date for the withdrawal of US-led forces, the government’s national security adviser said Tuesday. Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told reporters in al-Najaf city, 180 km south of Baghdad, that Iraq’s stance in the negotiations “will be strong.”

The US and Iraq have been negotiating a long-term security pact that would lay down the legal basis for a continued US military presence in Iraq after a UN mandate expires in December.

“We can’t have an agreement unless it has clear dates determining the departure of foreign forces,” Al-Rubaie said in the holy Shiite city.

Al-Rubaie met the press after briefing Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, about the progress of the Iraqi-US talks over the security deal.

The security pact, also known as Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), would be signed by July 31 following a previous agreement between US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki.

The Bush administration has always opposed setting any withdrawal timetable.

Iraqi politicians are against the agreement saying that it does not preserve the country’s sovereignty and national interests.

Monday, al-Maliki told Arab ambassadors in Abu Dhabi that he was seeking a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of the security agreement.

“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,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talibani met with British Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Prentice, to discuss local issues such as the rejoining of the Iraqi Accord Front to the Cabinet and provincial elections.

They have also discussed bilateral relations, with Talibani stressing the British support to Iraq.

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