BAGHDAD — A top American official expressed confidence Tuesday that the United States 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 United States 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."
British pullout: No final decision on withdrawing British troops from Iraq is imminent, Britain's Defense Ministry said Tuesday amid reports that the government will outline pullout plans by the end of the year. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that Cabinet ministers will announce within months when a final pullout will take place, provided a lull in violence holds.
Ex-officer pleads guilty: Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Levonda J. Selph pleaded guilty Tuesday to steering a Pentagon contract for warehouses in Iraq to a contractor in return for $4,000 cash and a $5,000 trip to Thailand. Her admission in U.S. District Court in Washington was part of a plea bargain with the government in which she agreed to cooperate with the investigation. The Virginia resident also agreed to pay the government $9,000 in restitution and serve a prison term of up to two years and nine months.
Tribal leader killed: Sheik Ali al-Nida, leader of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's tribe, was killed by a bomb Tuesday after he spoke publicly in favor of reconciling with the new government in Baghdad. Nida, head of the Abu Nasir tribe, was killed when a bomb attached to his car detonated while he was driving near his home in the village of Ouja.
Census announced: Iraq's government announced on Tuesday that it will conduct a census next year in an effort to determine the real numbers of the country's religious and ethnic groups. The population count would be the first since the fall of Hussein's regime five years ago and will take place in October 2009, according to a statement by the government's media office.
Turkey targets Kurds: Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish rebel targets in villages across the border in northern Iraq, Iraqi Col. Hussein Tamir said Tuesday. No casualties were reported.