| GEO World|
| US, Iraq officially seal security deal|
| Updated at: 0156 PST, Monday, December 15, 2008|
BAGHDAD: Washington and Baghdad have officially signed a security agreement amid reports that the U.S. is preparing for a longer stay in Iraq.
Outgoing US president George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the deal in Baghdad, media reported on Sunday.
The agreement, which is opposed by many Iraqi political and religious leaders, would extend the presence of US troops in Iraq for three more years after their UN mandate expires on December 31.
The deal, however, will be put on a national referendum in July 2009.
Under the deal, US forces should leave Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and leave the country by the end of 2011.
US commander Raymond Odierno, however, announced earlier that thousands of US troops would remain in Iraqi cities after the deadline.
The statement sparked outrage among some lawmakers who say the US is paving the way for breaching the interim agreement.
According to the parliamentarians, the commander's statement hints that US troops are planning to stay in Iraq for a longer period than what is envisaged in the pact.