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Bush, Maliki Agree Talks on Security Deal Going Well

By VOA News
19 June 2008

The White House says U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have agreed that talks on a long-term security pact are going well.

The two leaders spoke Thursday in a video conference call.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says Mr. Bush confirmed the U.S. commitment to reaching a deal that respects Iraqi sovereignty. He says Mr. Maliki confirmed his commitment to a deal that meets bilateral interests in such areas as economic, diplomatic and security cooperation.

Mr. Maliki said last week that talks on the agreement had stalled amid concerns about Iraqi sovereignty.

In related news, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told VOA it is possible the U.S. and Iraq can reach a security deal by the end of July. But he said they disagree on the issue of Iraqi sovereignty in relation to the role of the U.S. military in Iraq.

Zebari says that in meetings with U.S. officials, including President Bush, the officials emphasized Iraq's sovereignty and the role of the Iraqi government. He says the goal for both sides from the security deal is to remain long-term strategic partners based on mutual interests.

The deal would permit U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond December 31, when their U.N. mandate expires.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have arrested a top official of a Shi'ite militia stronghold, as part of a new military operation in the south of the country.

Security officials say police seized the mayor of the city of Amarah, along with a local council member, during the sweep Thursday in Maysan province. Officials say police have arrested at least 12 people since the new crackdown on militants began.

U.S. commanders say the region is used as a base to smuggle weapons from Iran. In recent days, Iraqi security forces have urged fighters in the area to hand over their weapons.



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