Iraqis: US, Iraq close to deal on troop withdrawal

Iraq and the US are near an agreement on all American combat troops leaving Iraq by October 2010, with the last soldiers out three years after that, two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. US officials, however, insisted no dates had been agreed. The proposed agreement calls for Americans to hand over parts of Baghdad's Green Zone - where the US Embassy is located - to the Iraqis by the end of 2008. It would also remove US forces from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, according to the two senior officials, both close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and familiar with the negotiations. The officials, who spoke separately on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing, said all US combat troops would leave Iraq by October 2010, with the remaining support personnel gone "around 2013." The schedule could be amended if both sides agree - a face-saving escape clause that would extend the presence of US forces if security conditions warrant it. US acceptance - even tentatively - of a specific timeline would represent a dramatic reversal of American policy in place since the war began in March 2003.