A day after the dispute forced an embarrassing delay of a signing ceremony in Baghdad, an Iraqi defence ministry source said disagreements remained on Sunday over the wording of a document that outlines the new relationship between US-led forces and Iraq’s military.
“There are some disputes between the two parties. We have our own point of view and they have theirs. We want thorough control and want the freedom to make decisions independently,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Saturday’s ceremony to transfer control of Iraq’s army from General George Casey, the US commander, to the Iraqi defence ministry had been hailed by US officials as a big step towards Iraq taking responsibility for its own security.
The US military, suffering almost daily casualties that have sagged domestic support for the war, has been training Iraq’s fledgling military under a plan that would allow it to begin withdrawing its 140,000 troops.
Nuri Al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, keen to be seen as ending his dependency on US military power, said last week his forces would take control of most of Iraq from foreign troops by the end of the year.
A US military spokesman said the dispute centred over the document’s wording and played down major disagreements between the two sides, adding that he expected it would be signed soon.
“We need more time regarding these discussions. There are some articles that need more discussions with the Americans”
Mohammed al-Askari, Iraqi defence ministry spokesman
Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson said late on Saturday: “It’s not a matter of major substance, but they’re not happy with the wording of the document.
“It is embarrassing, but it was decided it was better not to sign the document.”
But in a sign that negotiations could drag on, Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for Iraq’s defence ministry, said the government would take its time until an agreement was reached.
“We need more time regarding these discussions. There are some articles that need more discussions with the Americans. We don’t want to be rushed into making these decisions. Our points of view are not identical.”