June 20th, 2008 07:42 EST
Bush-Maliki talks going well, they say
The White House says U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have agreed that talks on a long-term security pact are going well.
The two leaders spoke Thursday in a video conference call.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says Mr. Bush confirmed the U.S. commitment to reaching a deal that respects Iraqi sovereignty. He says Mr. Maliki stressed the need for a deal that meets bilateral interests in such areas as economic, diplomatic and security cooperation.
Mr. Maliki said last week that the talks had stalled due to concerns about Iraqi sovereignty.
In related news, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told VOA Kurdish service it is possible the U.S. and Iraq can reach a security deal by the end of July. But, he said they disagree on the issue of Iraqi sovereignty in relation to the U.S. military`s role in Iraq.
Zebari says that in meetings with U.S. officials, including President Bush, the officials emphasized Iraq`s sovereignty and the role of the Iraqi government. He says the goal of the security deal is for both sides to remain long-term strategic partners based on mutual interests.
The deal would permit U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond December 31, when their U.N. mandate expires.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces arrested the mayor of the southern city of Amarah Thursday as they began a new crackdown on Shi`ite militias.
The mayor, Rafia Abdul-Jabbar, is a supporter of radical Shi`i`te cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He was among 17 people detained by Iraqi forces on the first day of the crackdown in Amarah.
Sadr`s aides complained that Iraqi forces were carrying out what they called "random" raids. The aides reiterated their support for Baghdad`s efforts to impose order in the city, provided that security forces act within the law.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.