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US-Iraq pact won't tie Bush successor's hands: White House

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 6, 2008
The White House said Thursday that a planned long-term US-Iraq security agreement did not require ratification by the US Congress and that it would not bind the hands of the next US president.

US President George W. Bush's chief spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said the US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, could provide more information when he testifies before lawmakers on April 8-9 about US-led efforts in Iraq.

Perino said the deal was necessary to lay out rules for US forces in Iraq to allow them to "operate freely" there beyond 2008, when the UN mandate for their presence ends.

"It's important to note what this agreement will not do. It will not tie the hands of the next President. It will not say how many troops should be there. It will not establish permanent bases. What it does is it provides for a secure environment for our troops to work, in a legal framework," she said.

Bush aides have said that the so-called Strategic Framework and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) will not include a binding commitment to defend Iraq or other commitments that might require US Senate approval.

"We don't anticipate at this point that this executive agreement would require Senate ratification, but if, as the negotiations move along in Iraq, that it turns out that it looks like we do need Senate agreement, then of course we would have to submit it as a treaty," said Perino.

Perino sharply criticized Bush's Democratic critics -- some of whom have raised the alarm over the agreement, saying it would commit his successors to an open-ended commitment to a vastly unpopular war.

"The Iraqis want it. Iraq's Arab neighbors want it. It appears that the only ones who are agitated about it, and in fact demagoging about it, are a subset of Democrats," she said. "I don't that their concern is merited."

At the same time, Perino said Congress was being "fully briefed" on the process but urged lawmakers to "trust" that US Ambassador Ryan Crocker "will represent the United States's best interests."

"The Iraqis have said that they want to get out from under the United Nations mandate at the end of this year. They asked for a long-term relationship with the United States," said the spokeswoman.

"The United Nations agrees that a long-term partnership agreement is in the interest of the Iraqis and the region, and in fact, have been helping to provide their input," she said.

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Iraq 'surge' downsizes as 2,000 US soldiers return home
Baghdad (AFP) March 6, 2008
Some 2,000 US soldiers whose unit was part of last year's surge to bring stability to Iraq are leaving the country and not being replaced, the US military said Thursday.

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