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Senior official confident of US-Iraq deal in July
U.S. Ambassador David M. Satterfield, Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State and Special Coordinator for Iraq, speaks during a press conference in the U.S. - protected Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, June 10, 2008. The U.S. State Department's top Iraq adviser says he believes a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement will be finalized by the end of July. - photo by Associated Press
    BAGHDAD — A top American official expressed confidence Tuesday the U.S. and Iraq will finalize a long-term security pact on time next month despite strong opposition from Iran and a storm of criticism from Iraqi lawmakers who must ratify the deal.
    David Satterfield, the State Department’s top adviser on Iraq, said both sides were committed to reaching an agreement, which would also provide a legal basis for keeping U.S. troops here after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.
    ‘‘We’re confident it can be achieved, and by the end of July deadline,’’ Satterfield said of the agreement.
    Satterfield bristled at suggestions by a senior Bush administration official close to the talks, who told The Associated Press on Monday that it was ‘‘very possible’’ the U.S. may have to extend the existing U.N. mandate.
    ‘‘It’s doable, that’s where our focus is, not on alternatives,’’ Satterfield told reporters. ‘‘We’re focused on plan A because we believe plan A can succeed. ... We think it’s an achievable goal.’’
    Stakes for both sides are high. An agreement would ensure long-term U.S. political and military support for Iraq and could help ease Arab concerns that the country would fall under Iranian domination if U.S. troops leave.
    The agreement also could serve to counter the spread of Iranian influence both in Iraq and the wider Middle East.
    However, the deal is politically explosive in a country where many people are weary of the American military presence, considered an affront to Iraqi national pride.
    U.S. officials believe much of the criticism has been orchestrated by Iran through militant Shiite groups including Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran. Al-Sadr has called for weekly protests against the deal.
    On Monday, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the presence of American forces was the ‘‘main obstacle’’ blocking Iraq’s ‘‘progress and prosperity.’’
    He told al-Maliki that Iraqis must ‘‘think of a solution to free’’ the country from American troops rather than seeking a way to extend their stay.
    Iran fears that if long-term U.S. military bases are established on Iraqi soil, the country could be used as a launching pad for attacks on the neighboring country.
    Satterfield disputed that Tuesday, saying Washington ‘‘does not think Iraq should be an arena, a platform for attacks on other states.’’
    ‘‘We want to see Iraqi sovereignty strengthened, not weakened,’’ Satterfield said.
    He added that ‘‘parties outside Iraq’’ who demand respect for Iraqi sovereignty ‘‘should be sure they’re respecting Iraq’s sovereignty’’ — a clear reference to U.S. allegations that Iran arms and trains Shiite militants here.
    But opposition to the U.S. proposals has spread beyond Shiite religious parties to include Sunni, Kurdish and secular politicians as well.
    Mindful of the political risks in striking such a deal, Iraq’s government plans to ask parliament to ratify the agreement as the representative of the Iraqi people.
    Much of the criticism centers around U.S. requests for long-term access to military bases, freedom of movement for American ground troops, authority to detain suspects and immunity for U.S. personnel including private contractors from prosecution in Iraqi courts.
    Iraqi lawmakers said the Americans had submitted new proposals to address some of those concerns, but it was unclear if they would be enough to soften Iraqi opposition.
    Deputy Prime Minister Bahram Saleh told reporters Tuesday that Iraq wanted to deepen its relationship with the United States ‘‘to serve our country, to preserve our independence and sovereignty from internal and external security challenges.’’
    Without mentioning Iran, he said the agreement would not be ‘‘in any form a threat to others.’’
    ‘‘Iraq also needs assurances from the neighboring countries to protect its sovereignty and stop any interference in its internal affairs,’’ he added.
    Also Tuesday, the chief of Saddam Hussein’s tribal clan was killed by a bomb glued to the undercarriage of his car, Iraqi police said. Sheik Ali al-Nida, 65, was the leader of the al-Bu Nasir tribe, a large Sunni Arab clan of about 20,000 members, including Saddam’s family.
    One bodyguard was killed and three were wounded when the vehicle exploded as they drove through the Wadi Shishain area of Tikrit, a mostly Sunni Arab city about 80 miles north of Baghdad, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.
    Al-Nida received Saddam’s body after his 2006 execution and arranged the former dictator’s funeral. In 2007, he founded a so-called Awakening Council in Saddam’s home village of Ouja, partnering with U.S. forces to fight Sunni militants in the area.
    Members of Saddam’s tribe have been targeted before, but it was unclear whether it was because of their ties to the former Iraqi dictator or because of long-standing tribal rivalries.

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