US, Iraq Begin Talks on Relationship

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BAGHDAD — U.S. State Department and Iraqi foreign ministry officials opened negotiations Tuesday over formal arrangements for a long-term relationship in the political, economic and security fields.

The talks will also focus on establishing a blueprint for what is known as a status of forces agreement, a standard arrangement that spells out the legal basis for the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi territory and establishes legal rights and obligations.

The U.S. government has such deals with dozens of other countries.

The Iraqi foreign ministry, in a statement, stressed the talks would focus on finding middle ground that would accommodate the needs of both nations. U.S. officials have sought to deflect publicity and close public scrutiny of the talks, which are being held behind closed doors.

The United States has 159,000 troops in Iraq and is expected to cut them to about 100,000 by the time a new president enters the White House next January.