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US gives warning on Iraq troop pact
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 : US defence secretary says failure to reach deal could have "pretty dramatic consequences".
The US defence secretary has said that "pretty dramatic" consequences would follow if an accord governing the presence of US soldiers in Iraq, falls through.
Robert Gates said on Tuesday in Washington that the door was "pretty far closed" on further negotiations - though it was not slammed shut.
Iraq's cabinet discussed the pact on Tuesday and unanimously called for changes to the draft agreement now under review, despite US warnings that time is running out.
"The consequences of not having a Sofa (Status of Forces Agreement) and of not having a renewed UN authorisation are pretty dramatic in terms of consequences for our actions," Gates said.
A status of forces agreement would replace the current UN mandate - which expires December 31 - as the legal basis for the US military presence in Iraq.
"Clearly, the clock is ticking," said Gates.
"Clearly there is a need to keep moving just so that we don't run out of time."
Iraq's Political Council for National Security reviewed the agreement on Sunday and Monday before sending it on the cabinet.
Iraq's Al-Sharqiya television reported that ministers from both the largest Sunni bloc - the National Concord Front - and the ruling mainly Shia grouping, the United Iraqi Alliance, wanted amendments.Read More