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Iraq says likely to miss deadline for U.S. pact

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A July target for negotiating an agreement on future relations between Iraq and the United States is likely to be missed, an Iraqi government spokesman said on Tuesday.

U.S. and Iraqi officials began talks in March on twin agreements on the status of U.S. military forces in Iraq after 2008 and a strategic framework agreement that defines long-term bilateral ties.

Washington has said it aims to wrap up the talks by July, but Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that was unlikely to happen.

“I don’t think that we can meet this date. There is a difference in viewpoints between Iraq and the U.S. I don’t think that time is enough to end this gap and to reach a joint understanding ... Therefore, we are not committed to July as a deadline,” he told al-Arabiya television.

He also said Iraq was looking into possible alternatives if it could not reach agreement with the United States on their long-term relations, but he gave no details.

The talks have angered many Iraqis who suspect the United States, which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has around 155,000 troops in the country, of wanting to keep a permanent presence there.

Reporting by Waleed Ibraham and Khaled al-Ansari; Writing by Adrian Croft; Editing by Charles Dick