Security Pact on Iraq Would Set U.S. Exit
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
BAGHDAD, Dec. 10 -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Monday that a new security agreement with the United States would set a time limit on the presence of American troops, adding that the government's eventual goal is to do without any foreign forces on its soil.
"We left an underline that the Iraqi government hoped that this will be the last extension of the mandate," Zebari told reporters, referring to a one-year extension of the U.N. authorization for the U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a declaration of principles last month to guide the negotiations toward the security pact that would take effect once the U.N. mandate ended. The principles did not clarify how long U.S. forces would remain in the country or what mission they would pursue.
Zebari also announced a new round of talks between the United States and Iran next Monday to discuss Iraq's security.
The foreign minister also said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had asked to reopen their diplomatic missions in Baghdad, the Reuters news service reported. The United States has repeatedly urged Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia to reopen its embassy as a sign of support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
"We have a request from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to resend its mission in Iraq and from the United Arab Emirates," Reuters quoted Zebari as saying.
In central Baghdad on Monday, mortar shells pummeled an Interior Ministry prison, killing five inmates and wounding 25, the U.S. military said, but local police said seven inmates were killed and 23 wounded.
In a separate incident, a blaze broke out at an oil refinery in southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood. Thick plumes of black smoke could be seen from miles away. Although the U.S. military described the fire as an industrial accident, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Mosawi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, told state-run television that a rocket had struck the refinery.
Also Monday, the top U.S. commander in the western province of Anbar predicted that security gains there will endure because of "blood feuds" between local tribes and the Sunni insurgent group Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But it will take another 19 months before Iraqi forces in Anbar can be completely self-reliant in their operations, said Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin, who commands about 35,000 U.S. troops in Anbar. "I think that the positive trends are permanent," Gaskin told Pentagon reporters in a videoconference.
"The Anbaris . . . have seen the brutal way in which al-Qaeda operated. They don't want a return to that. In fact, they have what's known as blood feuds with al-Qaeda, meaning it takes about six generations to eliminate that type of strife," he said.
Insurgent attacks have declined in Anbar for 10 straight months, he said, and weekly attacks have dropped from 460 a year ago to 40 last week, about half of which were unexploded roadside bombs found by coalition forces. "We have kicked al-Qaeda out of Anbar," he said. But, "they will always attempt to come back."
Gaskin said that Iraqi forces are taking the place of U.S. troops as they pull out of Anbar's cities and gradually withdraw. A large Marine contingent left in September. The Iraqis are supported by 1,700 U.S. troops acting as advisers, a 40 percent increase since February, he said.
A U.S. soldier was killed by a suicide car bomb Monday in Salahuddin province, the military reported.
Tyson reported from Washington. Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi, Dalya Hassan and Nasser Nouri in Baghdad and a special correspondent in Kirkuk contributed to this report.