Iraq to US: No Deal Without a Timetable for Withdrawal

NAJAF - Iraq will reject any security pact with the United States unless it contains a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces, the national security adviser said on Tuesday.

"We will not accept any memorandum of understanding if it does not give a specific date for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops," Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told reporters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

However, Republican White House candidate John McCain warned security conditions must dictate troop withdrawals from Iraq.

McCain, who has made staunch support for the US troops "surge" escalation strategy a centerpiece of his campaign, said that recent security gains were fragile and should not be put at risk.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's comment on Monday that Iraq was seeking such a timetable in talks with Washington on the future U.S. force structure in the country reverberated across the White House race.

"We will withdraw, but … the victory we have achieved so far is fragile and (the redeployment) has to be dictated by events and on the ground," McCain said, mirroring the Pentagon's line on the issue.

Maliki told Arab ambassadors on Monday he was pressing for such a timetable in negotiations with Washington on an agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2008.

It was the first time Baghdad's Shiite-led government has demanded such a schedule for a troop withdrawal.

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