Monday, Nov 17, 2008
Iraq and the United States signed a long-awaited accord on Monday requiring Washington to withdraw its forces by the end of 2011, eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The pact, which must still be passed by the Iraqi parliament, was signed by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker at a ceremony ending months of negotiations on the future of the U.S. presence.
“Definitely, today is an historic day for Iraqi-American relations,” Zebari told reporters after exchanging signed copies with Crocker. Both men smiled and enthusiastically shook hands as officials applauded.
The two men also signed a long-term strategic framework, which Crocker said would define the countries’ ties for years.
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“It reminds us all that, at a time when U.S. forces will continue to withdraw from Iraq in recognition of the superlative security gains over the last few years, our relationship will develop in many other important ways.”
The pact commits Washington to withdraw its force of about 150,000 troops by December 31, 2011. Iraqi negotiators consider the firm date a victory after the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush long vowed not to accept a timetable.