The Iraqi government insisted that it was not up to the United States to negotiate over Iraq's security with Syria as a delegation from the Obama administration arrived Wednesday in Damascus.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will make his own trip to Syria next week to discuss security, the government said, calling the issue an internal Iraqi affair. US and Iraqi officials have long been concerned about the infiltration of foreign fighters across the Syrian border.
"It is not the duty of the American delegation to negotiate on behalf of Iraq," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press. "It is the Iraqi government that will directly negotiate on security with Syria."
The remarks underscored emerging strains in the relationship between the Iraqis and the Americans as the balance of power shifts with the impending withdrawal of US forces by the end of 2011. US combat forces already turned over urban security to Iraqi forces on June 30, focusing their efforts on the borders and rural areas.