Sunday, July 29, 2007

U.S. denies Petraeus has poor ties with Iraq PM

BAGHDAD, July 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Sunday dismissed reports that the top U.S. general in Iraq, General David Petraeus, had a stormy relationship with Iraq's prime minister, but said the pair had "very frank talks".

Tensions have surfaced between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and U.S. officials as he comes under increasing pressure from Washington to speed up passage of legislation seen as crucial to easing violence between the country's Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs.

But a British newspaper reported on Saturday that the situation had got so bad that Maliki had asked U.S. President George W. Bush to remove Petraeus, who is directing Bush's new counter-insurgency strategy.

"This is a totally fabricated story," said Petraeus's spokesman, Colonel Steve Boylan.

"They have very frank, open, and perhaps direct conversations and continue to do so. Based on what is at stake here, that is what is needed and it should be expected that both are able to have very open and frank dialogue," he said.

The Daily Telegraph characterised the relationship between the two as stormy and said they had frequent shouting matches. "I can't deal with you anymore. I will ask for someone else to replace you," Maliki told Petraeus at one meeting, it said.

The newspaper and another media report said at one video teleconference with Bush, Maliki, angry over the U.S. military's alliance with some Sunni Arab tribal groups, had threatened to arm Shi'ite militias.......

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