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Bush ‘understands’ Iraq’s concerns over security pact: Iraq


Baghdad : US President George Bush told Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that he understood the ongoing disagreements in Iraq over a bilateral deal on US military presence in the country, a foreign ministry statement said Thursday.

In a meeting with Zebari in Washington, Bush expressed “US respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and the will of its people,” a statement issued by Iraq’s foreign ministry said.

Bush said he understood concerns expressed by the Iraqi government in negotiations over an agreement to provide a legal basis for troops to stay in Iraq after a UN mandate expires Dec 31, according to the statement carried by the Voices of Iraq news agency.

The agreement on the status of US forces has caused a controversy and protests in Iraq over the issues of how much powers the forces would have and a US demand for immunity from prosecution for independent contractors working in Iraq.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the talks had reached an impasse. A few days later, Zebari told Al Jazeera television that progress was being made towards finalizing a deal by July.

Zebari said the US accepted the demand that the agreement would not include immunity for contractors.