Well this is interesting…

The United States must provide a “very clear timeline” to withdraw its troops from Iraq as part of an agreement allowing them to stay beyond this year, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Sunday.

It was the strongest public assertion yet that Iraq is demanding a timeline. U.S. President George W. Bush has long resisted setting a firm schedule for pulling troops out of Iraq, although last month the White House began speaking of a general “time horizon” and “aspirational goals” to withdraw.

He would not be drawn on the precise dates that Iraqi negotiators are seeking for withdrawal, saying the document was not yet final. Iraqi officials have said they would like to see all U.S. combat troops out by October 2010.

An agreement that included that date would require the Bush administration effectively to accept a timeline almost identical to the one proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who opposed the 2003 invasion.

“You may hear many dates, but I caution you not to take any of these dates until you get the final document,” Zebari said.

Iraq has taken an increasingly assertive stance in negotiations with the United States after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s forces scored military victories against militia groups this year, giving the government a confidence boost.

The high price of oil means the Iraqi treasury has more money for reconstruction projects than it can figure out how to spend, and violence is at a four-year low.

I’m not sure this will have a big impact on the campaign, as this was released on a Sunday morning, Russia is invading Georgia, and the Olympics are in full swing. But it’s one more step toward the Obama campaign’s stance on Iraq.

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