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Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 11:16 UK

Iraq says US troop deal is close

Smoke rises the scene of the bomb attack near Baghdad's Green Zone
Smoke could be seen rising from the scene of Tuesday morning's attacks

The US and Iraq are "very close" to a deal on US troops staying in Iraq after 2008, Iraq's foreign minister has said after talks with a top US envoy.

But speaking at a joint news conference with John Negroponte, Hoshyar Zebari warned that "hectic political meetings" remained before it could be finalised.

The UN mandate on multi-national forces in Iraq expires at the end of the year.

As the news conference inside the Green Zone was beginning, two bombs went off nearby, injuring at least five people.

Reports conflicted as to the source of the explosions, with some suggesting mortars and others bombs attached to cars.

The Green Zone is a fortified compound of government and diplomatic offices and has come under mortar and rocket attack in the past.

'No false hope'

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke of "serious and dangerous obstacles" to a deal with the US on the future status of American forces in Iraq.

Fire-fighters put out a blaze in a burning car
There were conflicting reports as to the source of the explosions

At issue is US troops' immunity from local prosecution and the right of American soldiers to detain Iraqi citizens, as well as responsibility for overseeing military operations.

Speaking on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Zebari said he did not want to foster "any false hope" on the issue of immunity.

"This issue needs, I think, some bold political decisions and we are at that stage," he added.

Mr Negroponte, the deputy US secretary of state, refused to give details of the talks, saying only that both countries were pursuing the issue of immunity "from the point of view of their own national self-interest".

The US currently has around 147,000 US troops based in Iraq.

Iraqi officials say the deal on the table calls for US troops to leave the country by the end of 2011 unless the Baghdad government asks them to stay.

Mr Negroponte has been holding talks in Iraq since the weekend, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed earlier.




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