WASHINGTON, June 5, 2008 – The United States is not seeking permanent military bases in Iraq as it negotiates legal and military agreements with the Iraqi government, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker said here today. Speaking at the State Department, Crocker called published reports that the United States is trying to set up permanent bases “flatly untrue.”

“There clearly is going to be a need” for a U.S. and coalition military presence in Iraq beyond the end of the year, Crocker said. But the status of forces agreement, when adopted, “is not going to be forever, particularly as it related to the status and authority of coalition forces in Iraq,” he said.

“So I’m very comfortable saying to you – to the Iraqis, to anyone who asks – that no, indeed, we are not seeking permanent bases, either explicitly or implicitly, by just intending to stay there indefinitely,” he said.

Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments want a strategic framework agreement as quickly as possible, possibly by July, Crocker said. But he emphasized that his focus “is more on getting it done right than getting it done quick.”

The agreement will be developed through a straightforward process, and will be scrutinized not only by the Iraqi parliament, but also Iraqi public opinion, Crocker said.

“This will be a transparent process,” he said. “It will have a full debate. It will all be out there in the open.”

Once agreed to, the agreement will have far-reaching impact, the ambassador said.

“Not only will this agreement deal with the status of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq past 2008, we also intend for it to set the broad parameters of the overall bilateral relationship in every field,” Crocker said. This will include political, diplomatic and cultural aspects — “the whole totality of the relationship,” he said.

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