Excerpts of Iraq PM comments on US deal

Maliki's interview Monday with The Associated Press on the status of a deal being negotiated to set the terms to continue a U.S. military presence in Iraq:

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"We regard negotiating and reaching such an agreement as a national endeavor, a national mission, a historic one. It is a very important agreement that involves the stability and the security of the country and the existence of foreign troops. It has a historic dimension.

"Pressures are coming from east and west and north and south, but we are determined to rise above all these difficulties and pressures because we want this agreement to be passed ... and we will go ahead despite all that is being said.

"I am still hopeful that it can be achieved. The remaining hanging issues are limited. It is true that they are essential for Iraq and they seem to be essential for the United States. But I am hopeful."

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"The most important hanging issue here is the immunity or the legal jurisdiction over the American troops because certain powers, political powers inside Iraq are getting ready to use this issue once it's - if it's - approved, as a vehicle to overthrow, to destabilize the entire political system in Iraq, to destabilize the government. They would use it as a vehicle to re-ignite public feelings inside the country.

"We have proposed that the legal jurisdiction would be on one hand, on one side, with the Americans ... when the troops are performing military operations. When they are not performing a military operation, they are outside their camps, the legal jurisdiction would be in the hands of the Iraqi judiciary.

"This equation, we hope that such equation will satisfy the American side. It does satisfy the Iraqi side. ...

"I think we are approaching, we are getting near to a compromise on this issue. I think the atmosphere is positive in the negotiations. And I think once we manage to find a solution for this issue, the other issues will be easy to deal with."

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"If an agreement is not reached, the alternative is unknown and it would not be clear how the (U.S.) forces would operate, under what legal cover, how they would practice their duties or whether they would have to withdraw quickly.

The alternative is a dark image, especially in light of the developments in the relationship between Russia and the United States regarding the issue of Georgia and its implication on the situation in the (United Nations) Security Council and whether the Security Council would approve the presence of the international troops in Iraq again."

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"If we don't reach (any type of) an agreement by the 1st of January 2009, the (international) troops will have to remain in their bases and then there should be a plan for a quick withdrawal.

"This would not be in the interests of Iraq nor in the interests of the United States. Our need for coalition forces is decreasing - but it still exists."

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"Unfortunately, the negotiations were held in an atmosphere that is exhausted with the election debate, both in America and also to a certain extent here. ... so this has made it more difficult for both sides.

"I believe that if we can't pass this agreement, there will be a threat on all the successes that we have managed to achieve in Iraq. They will all be in jeopardy from the powers that are just waiting to destabilize, that are taking any opportunity to destabilize the situation."

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On the financial crisis in the United States:

"If I had enough funds to assist the American economy, I would do all that I can. But unfortunately Iraq cannot solve America's economic problems.

"But what Iraq can do is take up more responsibility security-wise here inside Iraq. And I have told the Americans repeatedly that we are ready to take up responsibility here in Iraq so there are less losses, a decreased number of American lives lost, and I am prepared to present this case before the American people. ...

"Iraqis are ready to take up security responsibility inside their country but unfortunately there is not much Iraq can do regarding helping the American economy. And I do understand that it is mostly the economic burden that is impacting your people."


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