Iraq Insists On Withdrawal Timetable For US Troops
The comments by Mouwaffak al-Rubaie were the strongest yet by an Iraqi official about the deal now under negotiation with U.S. officials. It came a day after Iraq's prime minister first said publicly that he expects the pending troop deal with the United States to have some type of timetable for withdrawal.
President Bush has said he opposes a timetable. The White House said Monday it did not believe al-Maliki was proposing a rigid timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals.
U.S. officials had no immediate comment Tuesday on al-Rubaie's statement.
Al-Rubaie spoke to reporters after briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf on the progress of the government's security efforts, and the talks.
"Our stance in the negotiations underway with the American side will be strong ... We will not accept any memorandum of understanding that doesn't have specific dates to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq," al-Rubaie said.
Some type of agreement between the United States and Iraq is needed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires at year's end.
Iraq's government has felt increasingly confident in recent weeks about its authority and the country's improved stability, and Iraqi officials have sharpened their public stance in the negotiations considerably in just the last few days.
Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in four years. The change has been driven by the 2007 buildup of American forces, the Sunni tribal revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and crackdowns against Shiite militias and Sunni extremists.
© 2008 Associated Press