By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 9, 2008 - Negotiations continue on the strategic framework agreement between the United States and Iraq that will allow military operations in Iraq to continue after the United Nations mandate runs out Dec. 31, U.S. officials said today. The government of Iraq has expressed the desire to have other frameworks in place when the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The agreement would allow the United States and Iraq to move forward in a bilateral relationship that would include a detailed status-of-forces agreement.
State Department representatives are working on the agreement with their opposite numbers in Iraq's Foreign Ministry.
Some Iraqis have protested against any agreement, saying it is a way for the United States to place permanent bases in the country. "We have said repeatedly that we are not seeking permanent military bases in Iraq," Whitman said. "U.S. forces in Iraq will not be used for offensive operations against any of Iraq's neighbors."
On the servicemember side, the agreement would deal with issues such as immunity and jurisdiction. U.S. officials negotiate these status-of-forces agreements with nations around the world, and negotiators will do the same with the Iraqi government, Whitman said.
The U.S. discussions with Iraq are based on three fundamental principles, the spokesman said.
First, he said, is full respect for Iraqi sovereignty. "There isn't going to be any sort of agreement that infringes on Iraq's sovereignty," Whitman flatly declared.
The second principle is that the agreement is fully transparent. There will be no secret deals in the negotiations, he said.
Third, it will be an Iraqi national decision. Any agreement will be submitted and debated in the Iraqi parliament, as required by law.
Whitman said negotiators are confident they will meet the deadline for the agreement.