In televised speech, Iraqi PM defends pact with US

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's prime minister has gone on national television to defend a security pact with the United States that his Cabinet has overwhelmingly approved.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he has "reservations" about the agreement that would allow American forces to stay in Iraq through 2011. But he says it's a "solid prelude" to the restoration of Iraq's full sovereignty.

He offered reassurance to neighboring countries Tuesday that Iraq "will never" be used to launch attacks on other nations.

He also has dismissed claims by critics that the deal was negotiated in secrecy or had secret annexes.

Iraq's parliament and presidential council still need to approve the deal.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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