US, Iraq inching closer to troop withdrawal pact

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Washington/Baghdad, Oct.16 : The governments of the United States and Iraq are reportedly close to reaching an agreement on when American troops will make their exit from Iraq.

The announcement that there is a new draft, while far from final, indicates that the Iraqis are inching closer to final approval.

The draft includes a previously discussed timeline for the withdrawal of American combat troops, with the troops moving out of Iraq's cities and towns by the middle of next summer and leaving the country in 2011, the New York Times quoted Iraqi spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, as saying.

The Iraqis have not provided details about the language of the draft, which reportedly also includes provisions on another knotty issue - whether American soldiers would have immunity from Iraqi law.

Senior Iraqi officials said the draft language would give Americans immunity from Iraqi law when they were on military operations but would not apply if they were off duty.

The American government does not view the draft as a final product because it remains subject to approval by three political bodies: the Political Council for National Security, the cabinet and the Parliament.

The White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said: "We are still in discussions with the Iraqis. The Iraqis are in discussions with themselves. And those discussions continue."

A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, acknowledged that there was what he called a "text" that was under discussion.

ANI

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