On July 7, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said Iraq would not accept any deal unless it contained a timetable for a full withdrawal of US troops from the country. Iraq is under pressure from Washington to negotiate a security pact that extends the US military presence beyond 2008 when the UN mandate comes to an end.
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Al-Maliki added that Iraq preferred a Memorandum of Understanding with Washington rather than the more formal Status of Forces Agreement. This was echoed by Iraq’s national security adviser Muwaffaq al Rubaie the following day. after a meeting in Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The top Shiite cleric expressed his concerns over the security deal by calling it an excuse that would legitimize the US occupation of Iraq. The Bush administration opposes any withdrawal timetable.
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