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U.S. Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister

Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari Before Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice


New York City

September 27, 2008

QUESTION: Are you getting close to getting a SOFA agreement, Minister Zebari?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: Well, we are very close. I’ve said many times, really, that I think it is in the final stages. And this will need the support of all the political leaders to have this agreement. So soon I hope we will hear some good news for both of us, and also to sustain and maintain political and security gains that has been achieved in Iraq. So we are very close.

QUESTION: What are the sticking points?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: I was actually going to just make a comment, which – just to say that the Minister and I had a very good conversation and we were talking about how different our conversations are this year than last year, and certainly much more different than the year before, because we now are doing, in many ways, the normal business of two governments. International relations – we were together with the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and the United States.


SECRETARY RICE: You’ve done a fine job of improving your ties to the world, but in – particularly to the Arab world, and I want to congratulate the Foreign Ministry on that work.

We are working on the SOFA. We’re making good progress. This is an important agreement. It is also not easy when –


SECRETARY RICE: -- you are working with a sovereign government, and we intend to fully respect the sovereignty of Iraq. We need certain protections for our forces so that we can continue the gains that we’ve been making. But we also are working in the context of a long-term strategic framework that will make us allies and friends for a long, long time to come.

So I want to thank you for being such a good partner in this, Hoshyar.


SECRETARY RICE: It’s our last General Assembly together because it’s my last General Assembly. It’s probably not yours –


SECRETARY RICE: -- but it is mine. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: You never know. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: And congratulations on the election law.


SECRETARY RICE: That’s great.


MR. MCCORMACK: All right, guys.

QUESTION: Excuse me, how do you rate* the security situation in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: I think it is vastly improved. Iraq still has determined enemies, and as does the region, as does the United States. But we’re working very effectively together. But we’re very pleased at the significant improvement in the security situation, in large part due to the significant improvement in Iraqi security forces and their ability to take on their own security concerns.

Thank you.


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