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Bush confident of security pact with Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • Agreement will not establish permanent U.S. bases, Bush says
  • "If I were a betting man, we'll reach an agreement," president says in France
  • Deal will not commit future U.S. presidents to troop levels, Bush adds
  • Iraqi official earlier said Baghdad might break off talks, legislate parameters
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- President Bush said Saturday he is confident the United States can reach a long-term security agreement with Iraq, one that will not establish permanent U.S. bases there.

"If I were a betting man, we'll reach an agreement with the Iraqis," Bush told a news conference in Paris after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

A top Iraqi official said this week the government is considering pulling out of the talks and devising its own plan.

The United States is working with Iraq's government to come up with a plan for a U.S. and coalition presence agreeable to the Iraqis, Bush said.

"We're going to work hard to accommodate their desires," he said. "It's their country. And at the same time, we believe that a strategic relationship with Iraq is important. It's important for Iraq, it's important for the United States, and it's important for the region.

"Whatever we agree to, it will not commit future presidents to troop levels, nor will it establish permanent bases."

An aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told CNN Thursday that Iraqi officials are frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations, so they are contemplating developing legislation to dictate the shape of the American military presence in Iraq.

The remarks by aide Haidar Abadi reflect concern among Iraqis that a bilateral security pact will compromise national sovereignty.

Abadi said there is precedent for Iraqi authority over foreign troops from a Coalition Provisional Authority measure cobbled together at the start of the occupation.

Senior American officials involved in the negotiations have told CNN that Iraq's go-it-alone option is a legally viable alternative.

The United States, however, hopes to secure a "status of forces" agreement by the end of July, and officials emphasize negotiations have yet to conclude.

At present, a United Nations mandate governs the American military presence through the end of the year.

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"The first drafts that were proposed reached a deadlock," and both sides are putting new ideas on the table, al-Maliki said in Jordan on Friday.

Armand Cucciniello, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the security talks aimed at a "long-term strategic partnership" are continuing, and that respect and recognition of Iraq's sovereignty are their underpinning.

All About Iraq WarPeacekeeping and SecurityIraqi Politics

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