U.S. says Iraq pact unlikely by July 31 deadline

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Iraq were unlikely to meet a July 31 deadline for completing a long-term security pact, but intensive negotiations were under way on an agreement that will help dictate the role of U.S. forces after year-end, the White House said on Monday.

“I don’t think that we’ll be able to finalize this agreement by next Thursday, we’re working towards it, but it might take a few more days after that,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

She said the agreement would include an “aspirational date” to transition the mission of American forces that have been in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. There are currently 148,000 American troops in Iraq.

But Perino said the pact with Iraq would not set specific dates for specific levels of U.S. troops on the ground.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said his government had a vision of all foreign combat forces leaving by the end of 2010 if security conditions allowed.

“This agreement that we are working on is nothing like the 40 or 50 arbitrary withdrawal plans that we saw many members of Congress support over the past several years,” Perino said.

“I don’t know what the time horizon is going to be, at the end of the day, when we finalize this agreement,” she said.

Earlier, Perino had described the possible wording of the pact.

“It might be something along the lines of: we think that Iraq would be able to take over its security for all of its provinces by this aspirational date. But I don’t know exactly how it’s going to read, but it would not include anything about troop levels,” she said.

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