The U.S. on Thursday delivered what it said was the final text of the controversial accord on the stationing of U.S. forces in Iraq, but Iraq said more talks are needed before the government can accept it.
“We have gotten back to the Iraqi government with a final text. Through this step, we have concluded the process on the U.S. side,” said Susan Ziadeh, the U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Baghdad. “Iraq will now need to take it forward through their own process.”
The accord, which calls for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011, has been the subject of tense negotiations for the past seven months.
According to State Department officials, the U.S. yielded to several important Iraqi demands, including Baghdad's proposal to inspect mail and cargo for U.S. forces in Iraq. One official said he did not know the details of how those inspections would be carried out, adding, “I don't think it's going to be overly intrusive.”
President Bush also accepted Iraq's request for firmer language in its call for U.S. troops to withdraw by the end of 2011, two defense officials said, although they did not know the details of the wording.
While the U.S. government signaled that it will not engage in further negotiations over the pact, which has been repeatedly delayed, the government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, indicated that Iraq expects further discussions with the United States before the process is completed.
“These amendments need meetings with the American side to reach the bilateral understanding, and the environment is positive,” Dabbagh said in a statement on a government-funded television channel. “The Iraqi side needs time to give the main blocs to have their opinions, suggestions and notes on the amendments suggested by the American side.”