October 7, 2008
BAGHDAD — The United States and Iraq are now “very close” to an agreement on the presence of American troops in the country beyond 2008, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Tuesday.
“There have been new ideas and new language that could be acceptable, but no final decision has been made. This needs some bold political decisions now,” Zebari told reporters in Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone.
He was speaking at a press conference with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, shortly after two bombs went off just outside the Green Zone, leaving at least one Iraqi soldier injured.
Baghdad and Washington are in talks over the so-called Status of Forces Agreement to determine the future status of US-led troops after a UN Security Council mandate expires on December 31.
Zebari said the two countries were acutely aware of the time constraint to work out an arrangement before the end of the year, but declined to be pinned down to a deadline.
“Discussions between the two have achieved a very advanced level and the disputed points will be resolved,” Zebari said, adding that he expected negotiations to be stepped up in the coming weeks.
“We are very close to reaching a satisfactory result for the two countries and the two people.”
But differences remain, notably on granting immunity to US soldiers for acts committed in Iraq, whether Washington has the right to detain Iraqi prisoners, and on the future command of military operations on the ground.
Zebari, speaking alongside Negroponte, said the two sides had cleared many of the sticking points on immunity and jurisdiction, but insisted nothing was final.
The Emergency Election Sale is now live! Get 30% to 60% off our most popular products today!