IRAQ. The Iraqi government has criticised US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen for warning of "major security losses" if Iraq does not pass a key security deal.
Ignoring the warning, Iraq's cabinet called for changes to the draft pact, which allows US forces to stay in Iraq after their mandate ends in December.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the admiral's remarks were an unwelcome source of "deep concern."
Reacting to Tuesday's warning from the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dabbagh said in a strongly worded statement that the "Iraqi government is deeply concerned by the statement of Admiral Michael Mullen".
"Such a statement is not welcomed by Iraq. All Iraqis and their political entities are aware of their responsibilities and are assessing whether to sign the deal or not in a way that it is suitable to them.
"It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way."
Adm Mullen warned that Iraq risked security losses of "significant consequence" unless it approved the deal to keep American forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year.
He told AFP that Iraqi forces would "not be ready to provide for their security" before the expiration of the current UN mandate on 31 December.
"It's time for the Iraqis to make a decision," Admiral Mullen said.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also warned of "dramatic consequences," saying the US would have to "basically stop doing anything" if there were no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
Also addressing Admiral Mullen's remarks, Iraq's military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Atta said Iraqi forces were ready to handle security across the country, noting that they already control 11 of Iraq's provinces.
Iraqi political leaders are demanding changes to a draft deal already agreed with Washington that would allow US forces to stay in Iraq until 2011. The current UN mandate for US-led coalition forces expires at the end of the year.
Source: BI-ME , Author: BI-ME staff