The U.S. officially responded Thursday to Iraqi proposals for changes in the draft security pact that would keep American troops here for three more years.
A top Iraqi official said the U.S. accepted some proposals and rejected others, presumably an Iraqi demand for expanded legal control over U.S. soldiers. The official would not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press that the response had been received but gave no further details and declined to characterize the U.S. reply.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh confirmed the report but did not give details.
But another top Iraqi official said the U.S. accepted some proposals and rejected others, presumably an Iraqi demand for expanded legal control over U.S. soldiers. The official would not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Another official said the written response was sent to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was studying it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
Iraq sought changes
The Iraqi Cabinet asked for the changes Oct. 21. In addition to expanded legal jurisdiction, the changes include a ban on the use of Iraqi territory to launch attacks against neighboring countries, effectively rule out any extension of the U.S. military presence beyond the end of 2011 and allow Iraqis to inspect U.S. military shipments in and out of Iraq.
Iraq officials have said U.S. diplomats appeared willing to make the changes except for expanded legal jurisdiction.
The Iraqis had urged the U.S. to show flexibility on that issue, which would open the door to expanded prosecution by Iraqi courts of major crimes committed by soldiers off post and off duty.
The U.S. has insisted on the exclusive right to prosecute its own soldiers and Pentagon contractors for offenses here, including killing Iraqi civilians.
Favoring an Iraqi role
Public opinion here, however, favors an Iraqi role. Although numerous U.S. soldiers have been prosecuted in military courts for offenses committed in Iraq, many Iraqis see the issue as a fundamental right of national sovereignty.
"If the security agreement doesn't stipulate that U.S. soldiers can be prosecuted under Iraqi law, it will be useless," said Salih Hamid, a Baghdad engineer. "Any U.S. soldier should be punished under Iraqi law if he committed a crime inside Iraqi territories."
Iraq's parliament must approve the deal before the U.N. mandate that governs U.S. operations in Iraq expires at the end of the year.
Without an agreement or a new mandate, the U.S. would have to suspend all military operations in Iraq.