BAGHDAD - Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday his country will not accept any security deal with the United States unless it contains specific dates for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces.
The comments by Mouwaffak al-Rubaie were the strongest yet by an Iraqi official about the deal now under negotiation with U.S. officials. They came a day after Iraq's prime minister first said publicly that he expects the pending troop deal with the United States to have some type of timetable for withdrawal.
President Bush has said he opposes a timetable. The White House said Monday it did not believe Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was proposing a rigid timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals.
U.S. officials had no immediate comment Tuesday on al-Rubaie's statement.
Al-Rubaie spoke to reporters after briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf on the progress of the government's security efforts and the talks.
"Our stance in the negotiations underway with the American side will be strong ... We will not accept any memorandum of understanding that doesn't have specific dates to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq," al-Rubaie said.
He provided no details. But Ali al-Adeeb, a Shiite lawmaker and a prominent official in the prime minister's party, told The Associated Press that Iraq was linking the timetable proposal to the ongoing handover of various provinces to Iraqi control.
The Iraqi proposal stipulates that, once Iraqi forces have resumed security responsibility in all 18 of Iraq's provinces, U.S.-led forces would then withdraw from all cities in the country.
After that, the country's security situation would be reviewed every six months, for three to five years, to decide when U.S.-led troops would pull out entirely, al-Adeeb said.
So far, the United States has handed control of nine of 18 provinces to Iraqi officials.
"This is what the Iraqi people want, the parliament and other Iraqi leaders," said al-Adeeb.