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US: Time Running Out for Iraqi Security Pact Talks


The United States says time is fast running out for talks on a security pact that will determine the future of U.S. troops in Iraq.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood on Thursday described the draft security deal as "good."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also stressed the security pact would be beneficial to both the U.S. and Iraq.

However, the president of Iraq's northern Kurdish government said he doubts the Iraqi Cabinet and parliament will approve the security pact.

In an interview with The Washington Post newspaper, Massoud Barzani said most political factions in Iraq want the accord to pass, but Iraqi politicians believe they are unable to state their real positions for fear of appearing too close to the United States.

Under the current draft accord, U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for three years, after their U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year. U.S. officials say without the agreement, all U.S. military operations in Iraq will stop.

President Bush has expressed confidence the accord will pass before the U.N. mandate expires.

Iraq's proposed changes to the draft are said to include one that would ban U.S. forces from striking neighboring countries from Iraqi territory.

An Iraqi lawmaker, Ali al-Adib, on Thursday outlined several other points that he said were proposed to Washington, among them making sure there is no option for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after 2011.

In other news, a U.S. government audit released Thursday shows $6 billion allocated towards Iraq's reconstruction was instead spent on private security companies hired to guard officials and workers.

And a U.S. based refugee agency, Refugees International, released a report Thursday saying the Iraqi government and donor countries should do more to support refugees displaced by the war, and establish the right conditions in Iraq, before luring them home.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.


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