London, June 12 : US President George Bush is offering concessions to the Nouri al-Maliki Government in Iraq in an effort to salvage an agreement and tone down the anger of Iraqi people over American plan to keep military forces in the country indefinitely.
With Washington's Iraqi allies rising up in revolt against the plans, Bush ordered a negotiating shift this weekend after speaking to Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister.
"Now the American position is much more positive and more flexible than before," a leading Iraqi negotiator in the talks was quoted as saying.
Senior Iraqi officials want a major reduction of the US military footprint in Iraq as soon as the UN Security Council mandate approving their presence expires at the end of the year, The Independent reported.
Iraqi officials also want US forces confined to barracks unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance. Emboldened by recent successes by Iraqi security forces, many officials want the US troops to leave altogether.
President Bush, who is on a farewell tour of Europe, wants a new agreement sealed by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory in Iraq and say his 2003 invasion has been vindicated before he leaves office.
But any long-term settlement to maintain US forces in Iraq would cut the ground from under the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, who has promised to withdraw US troops if he is elected in November.
The Bush Administration says a new agreement is needed to ensure stability in Iraq, as without one or an extended UN mandate, there would be no legal basis for US forces to remain.
The proposed terms of the impending deal, which were first revealed in The Independent, have had a predictably explosive political effect inside Iraq.
Iraqi officials complained that the plan which allows US troops to occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, would turn Iraq into a colony of the US, and create the conditions for unending conflict both in Iraq and the Middle East.
David Satterfield is negotiating the agreement, the US State Department's top adviser on Iraq, who still maintains it can be initialled by a July deadline, which Bush set last year.