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US, Iraq Say Progress Made on Security Deal

Officials from Iraq and the United States say they are close to reaching a security deal that will provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. troops in the country.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says negotiations on the agreement were in its final stages.

Zebari spoke to reporters Saturday at the start of talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Rice has also said that there has been good progress. However, she adds that certain protections are needed for U.S. forces so they can continue to make security gains in Iraq.

The agreement will authorize U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after the current U.N. mandate expires on December 31.

Iraq has said that it wants all U.S. forces withdrawn by 2011. Iraqi officials also object to U.S. demands that American troops have legal immunity for crimes committed in the country.

Any agreement must be ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

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