Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that his government is ready to compromise to reach a security accord with the United States because Iraq still needs U.S. troops despite a drop in violence.

"We regard negotiating and reaching such an agreement as a national endeavor, a national mission, a historic one," Al-Maliki said in an interview with the Associated Press.

He spoke at length about the difficulties he faces in trying to negotiate the accord setting the terms for the U.S. presence in Iraq for years to come -- an accord that must be reached by the end of the year. Opponents of a long-term U.S. presence range from supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to the government of Iran. "Pressures are coming from east and west and north and south, but we are determined to rise above all these difficulties and pressures because we want this agreement to be passed," Al-Maliki said.

He said a compromise -- an offer of limited immunity -- was near on the thorny issue of legal jurisdiction over U.S. forces. "We have proposed that the legal jurisdiction would be ... with the Americans ... when the troops are performing military operations," he said.

Al-Maliki also noted with gratitude the high cost paid by U.S. taxpayers, the U.S. military and the forces of other coalition members over the past five years. "We appreciate and we respect their sacrifices," he said of the troops killed.


An Afghan policeman opened fire Sunday on U.S. troops at a police station in Paktia Province, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding three others, officials said. Col. John Johnson, a U.S. commander, said the "rogue" policeman was then killed by the U.S. forces. The shooting occurred after the Americans and Afghan police brought suspected militants to the station.


Americans should remain skeptical about the benefit to the armed services of technological improvements and hold modest expectations about how much can be accomplished through military action, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience at the National Defense University in Washington. He said the Pentagon had erred by favoring complex weapons systems that take years to develop. Instead, he said, the military should look for the "75 percent solution," favoring less advanced technologies that could make an immediate difference in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Iraq has bought 12 new U.S.-built King Air reconnaissance planes to monitor militants and its borders. ... A U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire during a patrol Monday afternoon in northern Baghdad. ... Fighting between Pakistani troops and insurgents in the northwest tribal areas has caused 20,000 Pakistanis to flee to Afghanistan, the United Nations said.