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Gates: 'Dramatic Consequences' of Failed Pact with Iraq
    2008-10-22 05:52:56     Xinhua
Related: Iraq Wants Amendments to US Security Deal

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned on Tuesday of the "dramatic consequences" if the U.S. and Iraqi governments fail in reaching a pact as a legal base for the American military to continue its presence in Iraq.

"I don't think you slam the door shut, but I would say it's pretty far closed," Gates was cited by U.S. media as saying at a press conference, warning that failure to reach a new Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) or renew the current UN mandate for U.S. troops that expires at the end of the year would lead to a suspension of U.S. operations in Iraq.

The Pentagon chief said that the U.S. government has stopped doing anything and let "the Iraqi political process play out," but he noted that "the clock is ticking."

"What really needs to happen is for us to get this SOFA done. It's a good agreement. It's good for us. It's good for them," he added.

Gates summoned reporters after the Iraqi government demanded changes earlier on Tuesday to the draft SOFA to allow three more years for the U.S. military's presence in the country, which was opposed by some Iraqi lawmakers.

The Iraqi parliament must approve the pact before Dec. 31 when the current U.S. mandate expires or no legal basis will exist for the U.S.-led military mission.

However, the White House said on Tuesday that it was not surprised by difficulties in reaching the pact with Iraq, which was expected to be sealed in July.

"We knew it was going to take a little while to get this done," said spokeswoman Dana Perino. "The status of forces agreement is a little bit more complicated. We knew that the Iraqis would have several steps to go through."

 
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