Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 17:23 UK

Iraqis hit back at US commander

Adm Mullen in Lithuania on Oct 22
Adm Mullen said Iraq risks security losses of "significant consequence"

The Iraqi government has criticised US military chief Adm Mike Mullen for warning of "major security losses" if Iraq does not pass a key security deal.

Ignoring the warning, Iraq's cabinet called for changes to the draft pact, which allows US forces to stay in Iraq after their mandate ends in December.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the admiral's remarks were an unwelcome source of "deep concern."

Separately, bombs killed four people in the restive northern city of Mosul.

However, officials said the city was now safe for Christians, after almost half the 20,000-strong community fled to other parts of the country following a spate of attacks.

It is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way
Ali al-Dabbagh
Iraqi government spokesman

Reacting to Tuesday's warning from the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr Dabbagh said in a strongly worded statement that the "Iraqi government is deeply concerned by the statement of Adm Michael Mullen".

"Such a statement is not welcomed by Iraq. All Iraqis and their political entities are aware of their responsibilities and are assessing whether to sign the deal or not in a way that it is suitable to them.

"It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way."

Adm Mullen warned that Iraq risked security losses of "significant consequence" unless it approved the deal to keep American forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year.

He told AFP that Iraqi forces would "not be ready to provide for their security" before the expiration of the current UN mandate on 31 December.

"It's time for the Iraqis to make a decision," Adm Mullen said.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also warned of "dramatic consequences," saying the US would have to "basically stop doing anything" if there were no Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa).

Insurgent stronghold

Also addressing Adm Mullen's remarks, Iraq's military spokesman Brig Gen Qassim Atta said Iraqi forces were ready to handle security across the country, noting that they already control 11 of Iraq's provinces.

Iraqi political leaders are demanding changes to a draft deal already agreed with Washington that would allow US forces to stay in Iraq until 2011.

Rally in Bahdad for Christians in Mosul
Christian and Sunni leaders marched in Baghdad to support Christians in Mosul
The current UN mandate for US-led coalition forces expires at the end of the year.

Meanwhile in Mosul, said to be the last urban stronghold of al-Qaeda, a bomb in a parked car killed four people and wounded four others.

But the director of Iraq's human rights ministry, Ghanem al-Ghanam, said security forces had managed to stem the flight of Iraqi Christians from Mosul after a spate of attacks that killed at least 12 Christians since late in September.

Mr Ghanam said a fact-finding mission found that 2,275 families had abandoned their homes and jobs, taking shelter in remote Christian villages in Nineveh province.

Officials blame Sunni and Kurd extremists and al-Qaeda for the attacks.

In the capital, two car bombs wounded five people in central and western Baghdad, police said.

And in Qaim, 300 km (185 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraqi police said they found the remains of 34 people who were believed to have been killed two years ago.

Iraq seeking changes to US deal
21 Oct 08 |  Middle East
US warning on Iraq deal failure
21 Oct 08 |  Middle East

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