Crocker: Iran hinders
The US ambassador to Baghdad
has claimed Iran is
complicating American military negotiations over finalizing a security pact
"In terms of criticism
from the neighbors, Iran in
particular, I think this is deliberately intended to make the negotiations
difficult," said Ryan Crocker in Washington
DC on Thursday, in an apparent
acknowledgment of the difficulties in the negotiations for the so-called Status
of Forces Agreement.
Crocker voiced hoped that
the US would settle its security deal with Iraq despite criticism from Iraq's
neighbors and that Washington and Baghdad have set the end of July as a
possible date for concluding their agreement.
"We are certainly going
to try meet that date," he added.
The mandate of US troops in Iraq will expire in December 2008 and the Iraqi
government of Nouri al-Maliki
is under US pressure to sign the controversial 'mutual security agreement',
which would allow for the long-term presence of US troops in Iraq.
"There has been a lot
of debate. Certainly one of the indicators that this is a new Iraq was Iraqis across the political spectrum
expressing views on the negotiations and the agreement," the US envoy to Baghdad continued.
The Iraqi government, which
has vowed not to compromise national sovereignty, said on Tuesday that its
vision of the deployment of American troops beyond 2008 is different from that
of the US.
A host of Iraqi religious
and political leaders have also objected to the deal, describing it as a
Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,
has said that, 'as long as he were alive', he would
not allow Iraq to sign such
a deal with 'the US
Nearly 150,000 US troops are currently deployed in Iraq, which was
invaded by US-led forces in March 2003.