Maliki Can Negotiate On U.S. Troops

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BAGHDAD, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Iraqi leaders are considering the possibility that some U.S. military trainers will stay in the country after the withdrawal deadline, a statement said.

Iraqi leaders met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to consider the status of U.S. forces in the country. All U.S. forces under the terms of a bilateral status of forces agreement signed in 2008 are to leave Iraq by the end of December.

Leaders from major political parties in Iraq emerged with a statement giving Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki permission to negotiate the status of U.S. forces with the United States.

“The leaders agreed to authorize the Iraqi government to start the talks with the United States that are limited to training issues,” a statement was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iraqi leaders might need to consider immunity for U.S. forces staying behind but added time was running out for Baghdad to make a decision.

Reconstruction officials in the U.S. government say Iraq is still a very dangerous place and the political system there is exceptionally slow.

The statement on U.S. trainers provoked outrage from anti-American elements in the current government. Despite the flare-ups, however, al-Jazeera notes the development is a positive first step for the country.

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