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'US seeking to prolong presence in Iraq'
Wed, 20 Apr 2011 12:58:58 GMT
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US military forces in Iraq (file photo)
An Iraqi lawmaker has unveiled a secret US military initiative which he says is aimed at extending the presence of US troops in Iraq beyond December 2011.

Member of Iraqi Parliament's Security & Defense Committee Qasim Mohammad Jalal said that the American officials have held secret meetings with Iraqi government authorities in an effort to pave the way for the US troops to stay past the deadline set in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), IRIB reported on Wednesday.

The Iraqi politician pointed out that the US administration has mounted pressure on Iraqi officials in order to prolong its presence in the country.

The SOFA agreement signed between the United States and the Iraqi government mandates that Washington withdraws its troops from Iraq by the end of December 2011.

During his latest visit to Baghdad, US Defense Secretary Roberts Gates also signaled Washington's willingness to extend its military presence in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011.

"I think there is interest in having a continuing presence, but the politics are such that we'll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis," Gates added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, rejected Gates' offer, reiterating that he expects all American troops to leave his country by the end of the year.

Currently, over 47,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq.

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