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Iraq to start talks with U.S. over long-term strategic ties
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08:20, February 05, 2008

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Iraq will start talks with the U.S. later this month on an agreement that would shape bilateral strategic relations, including the long-term presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, the Iraqi government said Monday.

"The talks over the long-term cooperation and friendship between the two sides will start in the third week of the current month," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said without specifying a date.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, his two vice presidents and leaders of major political blocs held a meeting on Sunday to discuss the agreement, Dabbagh said in a statement.

"This agreement will bring benefits to Iraq whether economic, political and diplomatic ones," he said.

Some 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, currently under the U.N. and Iraqi mandate, desire to replace the mandate with a long-term pact that will draw the future ties between the two countries.

In November, U.S. President George W. Bush and Maliki signed a declaration of principles which were guidelines for negotiations between the two countries over the pact.


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