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Iraqi PM: Security deal with U.S. at 'dead end'

Talks with the United States on a new long-term security pact have reached a 'dead end' because of U.S. demands that infringed Iraq's sovereignty, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
/ Source: news services

Talks with the United States on a new long-term security pact have reached a "dead end" because of U.S. demands that infringed Iraq's sovereignty, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Friday.

"We have reached a dead end, because when we started the talks, we found that the U.S. demands hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq, and this we can never accept," Maliki told journalists during a visit to neighboring Jordan.

The agreement would provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires this year. Failure to strike a deal would leave the future of the American military presence here to the next administration.

U.S. negotiators offered new proposals this week after Iraqi lawmakers expressed outrage over the direction of the negotiations, claiming that accepting the U.S. position would cement American military, political and economic domination of the country.

In his first detailed comments on the talks, which are taking place behind closed doors, al-Maliki said Iraq objected to Washington's insistence on giving its troops immunity from prosecution in Iraq and freedom to conduct operations independent of Iraqi control.

"We can't extend the U.S. forces permission to arrest Iraqis or to undertake terror fighting in an independent way, or to keep Iraqi skies and waters open for themselves whenever they want," he said.
"One of the important issues that the U.S. is asking for is immunity for its soldiers and those contracting with it. We reject this totally."

Iman al-Asadi, a Shiite member of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs, said on Wednesday the latest American version "wasn't satisfactory to say the least."

She said the American proposals contained "some good points but they were not up to what we had expected." Al-Asadi said the committee had recommended to the negotiators that they reject the latest draft, the fourth since the talks began last March.

U.S. officials have refused to release details of the talks while they are still under way but have expressed their respect for Iraqi sovereignty.

The top State Department adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, told reporters this week that the two sides would meet a July target date to finish the agreement, which must be ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

Bush told reporters this week in Germany that he was also confident that a deal would be reached.

But a senior Iraqi official told The Associated Press that chances of finalizing an agreement before the November U.S. elections were "slim," although he added that al-Maliki's government was interested in a deal if it served Iraqi interests.

Al-Asadi also said the Americans had softened their demand for control of a considerable part of Iraq's airspace but the Iraqis insisted on full control.

"If the U.S. controls the air, the ground and the sea, this means no sovereignty," she said.

Al-Asadi refused to release further details or talk about how many bases the United States wanted access to under the agreement. She said the Americans were now avoiding talk of numbers of bases but were asking for an "American presence" until Iraqi security forces were deemed ready to take over from U.S.-led forces.

She said the agreement included no timetable for drawing down American forces and "this is a scandal."