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U.S. state, defense secretaries defend planned pact with Iraq
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09:00, February 14, 2008

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended a planned long-term pact with Iraq in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post Wednesday, arguing it won't tie the hands of the next president.

Both Rice and Gates argued in their article that a long-term agreement to formalize relationship between Iraq and the United States is necessary, since the UN authorization for U.S. troop presence will expire by the end of the year and Iraqis will not seek an extension.

The Bush administration announced last year that it will formulate a "statue of force" agreement with Iraq to formalize relations between the two nations.

Negotiations are underway and the Bush government wants to wrap it up by mid-2008.

Rice and Gates said the pact will "set the basic parameters for the U.S. presence in Iraq, including the appropriate authorities and jurisdiction necessary to operate effectively and to carry out essential missions."

Moreover, it will "establish a basic framework for a strong relationship with Iraq, reflecting our shared political, economic, cultural and security interests."

But the planned agreement is under attack on both domestic and international fronts.

Democrats said the Bush administration wants to tie the hands of the next U.S. president to Iraq via the agreement and set up permanent bases there.

Rice and Gates argued that is not the case.

"Nothing will commit the United States to join Iraq in a war against another country or provide other such security commitments. And nothing will authorize permanent bases in Iraq (something neither we nor Iraqis want)," they said.

"Nothing to be negotiated in the coming months will tie the hands of the next commander in chief, whomever he or she may be," they added.

Source: Xinhua

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