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Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 16:47 UK

Iraq seeking 2011 troop pullout

US soldier in Falluja
The deal is thought to include some immunity for US soldiers

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has spoken in detail about a deal to bring an end to the foreign combat troop presence in the country.

He said the agreement would lead to the withdrawal of the troops by 2011, but he added that no specific timetable had been agreed with the US.

A US state department spokesman has said there was no final deal and only a draft text had been agreed.

Any agreement will have to be approved by the Iraqi parliament and presidency.

The BBC's Crispin Thorold in Baghdad says Mr Maliki's comments may say more about his political position than about the deal between the US and Iraq.

Our correspondent says Mr Maliki is under great pressure from Iraqis and from parliament to protect Iraqi sovereignty.

'Fixed date'

Mr Maliki had told tribal leaders in Baghdad the two parties had agreed on a "fixed date, which is the end of 2011".

He said no agreement would be signed that did not respect Iraqi sovereignty, Reuters reports.

Until we have a deal, we don't have a deal
US state Department Spokesman Robert Wood

"An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces," he said.

He also said no foreigners would be given full legal immunity. The US has been trying to include immunity from prosecution in the Iraqi courts for its soldiers as part of the deal.

"We will not accept to put the lives of our sons on the line by guaranteeing absolute immunity for anybody, whether Iraqis or foreigners," Mr Maliki said. "The sanctity of Iraqi blood should be respected."

Deal awaits

US State Department spokesman Robert Wood told Reuters the negotiators had only agreed on a draft agreement.

"It still has to go through a number of levers in the Iraqi political system before we actually have an agreement from the Iraqi side," he said. He added that US President George W Bush would also have to sign it off.

"Until we have a deal, we don't have a deal," he said.

On Friday, a senior Iraqi official said the draft security agreement included the withdrawal of US forces from all Iraqi urban areas by June 2009.

The 27-point agreement reportedly includes a compromise allowing US soldiers some immunity under Iraqi law.

There are currently around 147,000 US troops in Iraq. It is thought some US troops could remain beyond 2011 to train Iraqi security forces.

Our correspondent in Baghdad says the 2011 date has been discussed as "aspirational" by the Bush administration in past, but Mr Maliki's comments are the strongest indication of the Iraqi wish to have all US troops out of the country by then.




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