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Iraq says no secret terms in security pact with US
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Tuesday that there are no secret terms in the security agreement with Washington, confirming that Iraq would not be used to attack neighboring countries.

In his televised address, Maliki accused politicians, without naming them, of misleading Iraqi people by saying his government was "working behind doors."

"What I want to say that there is no secret terms in this pact, and those who oppose the agreement have spoke out against it even before they read its text," Maliki said, defending the security pact that his cabinet signed a day before.

"Frankly to say, we have some remarks against the agreement, but we think it represents a strong start for independence of Iraq within three years," he said.

In his speech, Maliki was keen to clarify the circumstances which his government faced during the negotiations with U.S. side.

"We were facing difficult alternatives," Maliki said, pointing out that his government was either to demand extension for UN mandate and the foreign troops to stay in Iraq or to negotiate with the United States to gain sovereignty.

In a signal to reassure the neighboring countries, Maliki confirmed that the pact stipulated that "Iraq would not be a route or a launch pad for foreign troops to attack any neighboring country."

On Monday, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker initially signed the long-awaited security pact which would allow U.S. forces to remain in the country for another three years.

On Sunday, the Iraqi cabinet almost unanimously approved the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and another agreement of bilateral cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

The SOFA draft pact stated, among other things, that the U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq's cities, towns and villages by June 30 next year to their bases and will leave the country on Dec.31, 2011.

For months, the two countries were at odds over the agreement, which the U.S. needs as a legitimate support for the station of its troops beyond 2008 after the current UN mandate ends on Dec. 31.

(Xinhua News Agency November 19, 2008)

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