Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday no security agreement with the United States could be reached unless it included a "specific deadline" for the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.
Last week, American and Iraqi officials said the two countries had agreed tentatively to a schedule which included a broad pullout of combat forces by the end of 2011. But al-Maliki's comments Monday suggested that the Iraqi government is still not satisfied with that arrangement.
According to the AP, an aide to the prime minister said Monday that Baghdad remained adamant that the last American soldier must leave Iraq by the end of 2011 — regardless of conditions at the time.
"There can be no treaty or agreement except on the basis of Iraq's full sovereignty," al-Maliki told a gathering of tribal sheiks. According to him, such an agreement must be based on the principle that "no foreign soldier remains in Iraq after a specific deadline, not an open time frame."
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said negotiations with the Iraqis continued, but reiterated the U.S. stance depended on conditions in Iraq. "We're optimistic that Iraq and the U.S. can reach a mutual agreement on flexible goals for U.S. troops to continue to return on success — based on conditions on the ground — and allow Iraqi forces to provide security for a sovereign Iraq," he said in Crawford, Texas.