Maliki: Impasse over the status of forces agreement due to ‘unacceptable’ American demands; Bush regrets rhetoric in run-up to Iraq war; Secular opposition front to the Maliki govt. being formed
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  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told reporters in Jordan on June 12 that talks with the US regarding the nature of the American troop presence in the country had reached an “impasse” due to the “unacceptable” demands being made by the Americans. Among provisions of the deal that have been opposed by the Iraqi negotiators included demands of immunity to security contractors, authority to establish over 50 long-term bases and power to conduct independent security operations1. Maliki asserted that these demands “hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq” and therefore could not be accepted2. Earlier on June 13, US military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner insisted in Baghdad that the US had 'no intent' and 'no desire' for permanent bases or to use the county as a base for 'offensive purpose3.'

    Regional opposition to the pact being negotiated was also expressed during the recent visit of Mr. Maliki to Iran. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a meeting with Maliki on June 9 asserted that the “most fundamental problem” of Iraq was “the presence of the foreign forces4.”

    President Bush on his part however expressed confidence that both the sides could come to an understanding addressing each others concerns. Talking to reporters in Paris on June 14, Bush affirmed that his administration “respected Iraq’s sovereignty” and that they would accommodate the desires of Iraq’s political leaders5. The American President, in his last tour of European capitals during the week, also expressed regret over the rhetoric used in the run up to the Iraq war and the tensions the war itself had caused in Washington’s relationship with Europe6. Ahead of his visit to London, Mr. Bush in an interview urged Prime Minister Brown not to set a “definitive timetable” for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq7.

    In other domestic developments, reports noted that a coalition of political groups, including the Shia Islamic Fadila, the Sadr Bloc, the secular Iraqi List and the Sunni Arab Bloc for Dialogue, among others would form a secular opposition front to oversee the work of the ruling coalition. The move was being seen as a protest against Mr. Maliki's ruling coalition as it has been accused of promoting sectarianism8.