U.S., Iraq Make Progress on Status of Forces Agreement

WASHINGTON– Washington and Baghdad are close to reaching a status…

WASHINGTON– Washington and Baghdad are close to reaching a status of forces agreement, but negotiations on the deal to determine the future U.S. military role in Iraq are ongoing, a Defense Department official said today.

“We’ve made good progress on it; we are close,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “There are still some issues to work out, but … it’s very premature at this point to say that we have an agreement.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a surprise one-day visit to Baghdad today, said the discussion about the status of forces is possible only because of recent security progress leading up to negotiations.

“The reason we are where we are today, talking about this kind of agreement, is that the surge worked, Iraqi forces have demonstrated that they are strong and getting stronger, [and] we are making progress together in the defeat of Iraq’s enemies of all stripes,” she said during a news conference in Baghdad.

“And we can look forward to an agreement, or we can look forward to a set of circumstances, in which we know what is needed in the future in terms of roles, responsibilities, numbers,” she added.

Rice’s counterpart in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, said the two sides are “very close” to an agreement.

“We are very close to finalize this important agreement for Iraq, for the region, and for the friendship and the partnership of Iraq and the United States,” he said.

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