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U.S. says no bases forever in Iraq

The Bush administration is not trying to set up permanent military bases in Iraq, even surreptitiously, the diplomat leading talks with Iraq said Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker rejected the notion that the legal and military agreements he wants this year are blueprints for an everlasting U.S. military presence in Iraq.

“It is not going to be forever,” he told reporters at the State Department.

Crocker addressed suspicions, including among many Iraqis, that the Bush administration is trying to wrap up deals for an indefinite military presence in Iraq that the next U.S. president could not undo.

“There isn't going to be an agreement that infringes on Iraqi sovereignty,” and the military agreement will have a provision for periodic review and renewal, as do similar agreements with other countries, Crocker said.

The deals would establish a long-term security relationship between Iraq and the U.S. and a legal basis to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Negotiations are intense, particularly over the longevity of military bases and control of Iraqi airspace.