BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The United States asked Iraq for permission to maintain a troop presence there to 2015, but U.S. and Iraqi negotiators agreed to limit their authorization to 2011, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said.
“It was a U.S. proposal for the date which is 2015, and an Iraqi one which is 2010, then we agreed to make it 2011. Iraq has the right, if necessary, to extend the presence of these troops,” Talabani said in an interview with al-Hurra television, a transcript of which was posted on his party’s website on Wednesday.
U.S. officials in Baghdad were not immediately available for comment.
Details have been slowly emerging about negotiations for the bilateral security pact, which U.S. and Iraqi officials say are close to conclusion.
The agreement will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that, while overall negotiations continued, the two sides had accepted the end of 2011 as an end date for the presence of the approximately 145,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
The emerging points of agreement reflect the increasing assertiveness of the Maliki government as it seeks to define the future of the U.S. presence in Iraq.
They also reflect the political pressures that Maliki faces at home more than five years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
U.S. officials stress that no final agreement has been made. A final deal will need to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.