Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
In a meeting with Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq Al-Rubaie on Tuesday, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani expressed his concerns over the security deal by calling it an excuse that will justify the presence of US forces in Iraq.
Ayatollah Sistani had earlier noted that any long-term pact with the US should observe four key terms: safeguarding Iraqis' interests, national sovereignty, national consensus, and parliament approval.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested a timetable for the departure of US forces from Iraq.
However, Washington played down calls for a firm withdrawal deadline, saying any pullout will be based on the conditions on the ground.
"We're looking at conditions, not calendars here," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said on Tuesday.
Baghdad and Washington are negotiating a treaty that would allow the American troops to stay in Iraq after their mandate under the UN expires in December 2008.
The controversial security deal has faced fierce opposition from Iraqi religious and political figures who believe the deal would turn the country into a US colony.
Original article posted here.