Iraqi leaders say US commander risked his position by ill comment


Baghdad : Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki warned in comments broadcast Friday that the top US commander in Iraq “had risked his position” by suggesting that Iran tried to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to oppose a security agreement with the United States.

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Maliki’s remarks were aired on state television as he convened the leaders of Iraq’s political blocs to review the security agreement that would sanction US troops staying in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires December 31.

The meeting of leaders, known as the Political Council for National Security, ended with plans to meet again Sunday, according to Haidar Abadi, a member of parliament from Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party.

Abadi said he did not expect the discussions to move quickly after Friday’s session.

US Army Gen. Ray Odierno, who took command of US forces last month, told the Washington Post in an interview published Monday that American intelligence reports alleged that Iran had attempted to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to sabotage the agreement.

The comments, which drew the ire of Iraqi politicians all week, brought an angry retort from Maliki.

“The American commander risked his position when he talked about this issue and in this manner. He has regretfully made relations complex,” Maliki said in remarks made to Kuwaiti journalists on Thursday and aired Friday.

“The man is known for his goodness, but [I don’t know] how he made such a statement, and there is no reality in this subject.

The parliament does not take any bribes, neither from Iran or any other party. This is regretful.”

The Iraqi government and its three-member presidency council had already issued statements condemning the remarks. The US military had also taken the step of reiterating that Odierno was criticizing Iran and not Iraqi lawmakers.

The dispute revealed the tensions festering in US-Iraqi relations five years after American-led forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.