Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Iraq on an unannounced trip, where she will meet with PM Nouri al-Maliki and other top officials to continue talks to keep American troops in the country after their UN mandate expires. While sources in both the US and Iraq have said that an agreement has already been drafted, Rice insisted that "all of the reports and rumors and chatter, it really ought to be ignored," reports CNN. "When we have a deal, we'll have a deal."
Iraq's deputy foreign minister indicated yesterday that the agreement on the American troop presence includes a provision that the US will withdraw from cities and towns by the middle of 2009. An American source, however, said that the date was "not a deadline." The UN mandate governing American troops in Iraq expires at the end of this year.