Paul Richter and Ned Parker / L.A. Times | August 22, 2008

BAGHDAD — American and Iraqi officials are close to a draft agreement to see U.S. forces conditionally withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, though both sides warned Thursday that political hurdles to a final settlement remain.

The current version of the deal would set a conditional time frame for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by next June and for combat troops to leave the country two years later.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in Baghdad’s fortress-like Green Zone, downplayed expectations that approval of an agreement was imminent.

“We’ll have agreement when we have agreement,” Rice told reporters, addressing speculation that a deal was near.

Rice and Maliki huddled for 2 1/2 hours, trying to iron out differences in the pact, which would govern the presence of U.S. forces here after their United Nations mandate expires in December.

Iraq’s foreign minister warned that Iraqi politicians must still approve any deal, cautioning that previous drafts had been touted as complete, only for one side or the other to find fault.


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