Iraq PM: Talks with U.S. in a ‘deadlock'

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared Friday that talks with the U.S. on a new security agreement were deadlocked, as Sunni and Shiite preachers spoke out against the deal that would enable American troops to remain in Iraq after year's end.

Al-Maliki said negotiations will continue, but his words reflect Iraqi determination to win greater control of U.S. military operations after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

His comments, made during a visit to Amman, Jordan, echo those of other leading Iraqi politicians, who have complained that U.S. proposals would give the Americans too much power over Iraq's political, economic and military affairs.

“The first drafts presented left us at a dead end and deadlock,” al-Maliki said. “So, we abandoned these first drafts. The negotiations will continue with new ideas until the sides reach a formula that preserves Iraq's sovereignty.”

The agreement would establish a long-term security relationship between the United States and Iraq and provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires.

Failure to strike a deal would be a major setback for President Bush ahead of the November presidential election and at a time when Democrats are calling for an end to the unpopular war.

U.S. negotiators offered new proposals this week in hopes of assuaging Iraqi anger and finalizing the deal by the July target date.

But some Iraqi lawmakers familiar with the negotiations say the American proposals still fall short of Iraqi demands.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States did not consider the talks at an impasse and that “the negotiations will continue.” But the two sides appear far apart on several key issues, including immunity for American soldiers, control of Iraqi air space and authority to detain suspects.