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U.S.: No SOFA extension request from Iraq

U.S.: No SOFA extension request from Iraq
Members of the Iraqi security force patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 30, 2009. U.S. military personnel began withdrawing from Iraqi cities on today in the first step toward pulling out of Iraq. (UPI photo/Ali Jasim) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- To date, there hasn't been a formal request by the Iraqi government to keep U.S. forces stationed there beyond a mandatory deadline, the State Department said.

U.S. military forces under the terms of a bilateral status of forces agreement signed in 2008 are obligated to leave the country by Dec. 31.

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Baghdad announced it temporarily closed its international airport Tuesday because of a potential safety threat. U.S. troops haven't turned over security of Iraqi airspace completely to the Iraqi government.

Iraq has experienced an uptick in violence as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches. A series of bomb attacks across the country early this week left at least 35 people dead and dozens more injured.

Baghdad, however, hasn't asked Washington to keep any troops in the country beyond the mandated deadline, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters during her regular press briefing.

"Our plan is to withdraw our combat troops by the end of the year," she said. "Were there to be a specific Iraqi request, we would be open to considering it, but to date, there has not been a formal Iraqi request."

Stuart Bowen, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, warned in a July report to Congress Iraq was a very dangerous place more than eight years after the initial U.S.-led invasion.

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"It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago," he wrote.

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