Bush OKs Deal on Iraq Troop Withdrawal

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President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke by phone Friday as the two countries closed on a deal that would set a course for American combat troops to pull out of all major Iraqi cities by December 2011.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that they "had a good conversation," but "there are a lot of details that have to be worked out."

Both countries continue to work out details regarding prosecutorial jurisdiction for American contractors.

Bush has been resistant to a timetable for pulling out of Iraq, but has softened to the idea in recent weeks as the presidential race for his successor heats up.

Both contenders, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, spar almost daily over the future course of the war.

As the Bush administration inches closer to Iraq's desire to set a withdrawal time, it is agreed that Iraqi security forces will be ready to stand on their own.

However, some U.S. military training would continue.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the "ultimate goal is to have Iraqi forces responsible for the security of Iraq" and that they agreed to "some goals, some aspirational timetables" for troop withdrawals that would be worth having.

"What we're trying to do is to put together an agreement that protects our people, that respects Iraqi sovereignty, that allows us to lay the kind of foundation that we need for making certain that we complete the work that we've all sacrificed so greatly to see accomplished, and that work is being accomplished," she said after meeting with Prime Minister al-Maliki.

Immunity remains the main point of contention between the U.S. and Iraq. Currently, U.S. contractors are subject to American legal authority, not Iraq's.

But Iraq wants private U.S. contractors to be subject to Iraqi law. They are reluctant to allow contractors to have free rein when outside U.S. bases and without any Iraqi legal authority over them.

As far as the U.S. troops are concerned, the U.S. insisted they remain subject exclusively to U.S. legal jurisdiction, officials said.

Source: The Associated Press, CNN

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