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McClatchy Newspapers

Maliki Demands 'Specifc Deadline' For US Troop Pullout

Leila Fadel

Hundreds of Shiite Muslims march in a rally in the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, to denounce the surprise visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Iraq last week. Maliki publicly demanded a deadline for the U.S. departure from Iraq. (Qassem Zein / AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said
Monday there would be no security agreement between the United States
and Iraq without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal - a direct
challenge to the Bush administration, which insists that the timing for
troop departure would be based on conditions on the ground.

"No pact or an agreement should be set without being based on full
sovereignty, national common interests, and no foreign soldier should
remain on Iraqi land, and there should be a specific deadline and it
should not be open," Maliki told a meeting of tribal Sheikhs in Baghdad.

said that the United States and Iraq had agreed that all foreign troops
would be off Iraqi soil by the end of 2011. "There is an agreement
actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date,
which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,"
Maliki said.

the White House disputed Maliki's statement and made clear the two
countries are still at odds over the terms of a U.S. withdrawal.

decisions on troops will be based on conditions on the ground in Iraq,"
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in Crawford, Tex., where
President Bush is vacationing. "That has always been our position. It
continues to be our position."

Fratto denied Maliki's assertion
that an agreement has been reached mandating that all foreign forces be
out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

"An agreement has not been
signed," he said. "There is no agreement until there's an agreement
signed. There are discussions that continue in Baghdad."

also said the dispute has not been resolved over immunity for U.S.
troops and contractors when they are off their bases. He said this was
one of the most divisive issues under negotiation.

"We can't neglect our sons by giving an open immunity for anyone whether he is Iraqi or a foreigner," he said

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad
last week in an effort to push the process forward. Her long meeting
with Maliki ended with no concrete solution, his advisor told McClatchy.

Jonathan S. Landay contributed from Washington.


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