Crocker: Iran hinders US-Iraq talks

 

http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=58875&sectionid=351020101

 

The US ambassador to Baghdad has claimed Iran is complicating American military negotiations over finalizing a security pact with Iraq.

 

"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 'shame'.

 

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 occupiers'.

 

Nearly 150,000 US troops are currently deployed in Iraq, which was invaded by US-led forces in March 2003.