Iraq acknowledges differences with US over security pact

Iraq's chief spokesman Sunday acknowledged differences with the United States over a proposed long-term security agreement and pledged the government will protect Iraqi sovereignty in ongoing talks with the Americans. Also Sunday, Australia became the latest member of the US-led coalition to pull combat soldiers from Iraq, fulfilling an election promise that helped sweep Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to power in November. Opposition has been growing to the proposed US-Iraqi security pact, which will replace the current UN mandate and could provide for a long-term American military role in this country. Much of the opposition come from anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but statements critical of the deal have also been issued by mainstream Sunni and Shiite figures who fear it will undermine Iraqi sovereignty.