Page last updated at 20:51 GMT, Sunday, 19 July 2009 21:51 UK

Tensions rise over US Iraq role

By Gabriel Gatehouse
BBC News, Baghdad

US and Iraqi security forces in Baquba, Iraq (June 2009)
US troops cannot enter urban areas without Iraqi permission

Tensions appear to be growing between the US military and the Iraqi security forces.

They have arisen over co-operation and the restrictions imposed on the movement of American forces in urban areas inside Iraq.

The Iraqi defence ministry has confirmed the limitations.

But reports suggest US commanders have been surprised and frustrated by the new rules, suggesting they could endanger the safety of their troops.

The agreement has been in place since American troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq's towns and cities.

A spokesman for the Iraqi defence ministry told the BBC there had been no joint US-Iraqi patrols in urban areas since 30 June.

According to an agreement signed between the two sides, US forces are not allowed to enter Iraq's towns and cities unless specifically requested to do so by the Iraqi authorities, except in cases of self-defence.

The spokesman said the ministry adhered to a strict interpretation of these new rules, but some in the American military appear to take a different view.

The Washington Post newspaper quotes what it says is an email written by the commander of the US forces' Baghdad division saying his troops would continue to engage in operations inside urban areas to avert, or respond to, threats whether or not they were supported by the Iraqis.

The report suggests that US military figures did not expect the new rules to be implemented so literally, and for a limited number of joint patrols to continue following the withdrawal.

The Iraqi government has been keen to demonstrate that it is now capable of providing security without American support.

Tensions between Washington and Baghdad have become more evident as the US moves towards reducing its military presence in the country.

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