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Sat 6 Dec 2008 09:25 AM

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Bush thanks Iraqi leaders over security pact

Controversial security deal lays groundwork for departure of US troops in three years.

US president George W. Bush on Friday called Iraq's leaders to thank them for agreeing to a controversial security deal that lays the groundwork for the departure of US troops in three years, a spokesman said.

Bush made separate phone calls to Iraq's two vice presidents and Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, as well as Shi'ite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim and deputy speaker of parliament Khalid al-Attiyah, said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"President Bush thanked them for their leadership in securing approval of the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Security Agreement," Johndroe said.

The US president on Thursday thanked Iraq's president and prime minister for their work on the deal, which lays out the rights and responsibilities of US forces once the UN mandate for their presence in Iraq lapses late this month.

The wide-ranging accord - which will require all US troops to leave the country by the end of 2011 - won final approval from Iraq's presidential council Thursday after nearly a year of intense negotiations.

The pact was made possible in part by dramatic improvements in security over the past year.

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