U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is warning of dramatic consequences
if an accord governing the future U.S. troop presence in Iraq is not
Gates told reporters on Tuesday that time is running out for the
approval of a Status of Forces Agreement. He said if there is no deal,
U.S. troops would have to, in his words, "stop doing anything" when the
United Nations authorization expires at the end of the year.
U.S. troops still provide much of the security for the Iraqi people.
Gates' comments came hours after Iraqi officials said the Iraqi Cabinet
is seeking changes to the draft security agreement that are aimed at
gaining national acceptance for the deal.
Gates said there there is little room for negotiating changes to the
accord. He added that a renewal of the U.N. mandate would be difficult
An Iraqi government spokesman says the Cabinet will meet again in a few
days to outline changes to the draft and forward them to U.S.
officials. He did not say what kind of changes they are considering.
The draft agreement reached last week calls for U.S. troops to withdraw
from Iraq by the end of 2011, unless Baghdad asks them to stay. It also
would give Iraq's government limited authority to prosecute American
soldiers who commit serious crimes outside U.S. bases while off-duty.
Iraq's ruling Shi'ite-led coalition expressed reservations about the document on Sunday.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says Iraq's parliament is not
likely to debate a U.S.-Iraqi security pact before the U.S.
presidential election on November fourth.