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U.S. exit from Iraq discussed

Deal looked at has combat troops out of major cities by June and a larger-scale exit two years later.

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke Friday by secure video as work on a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2011 continued.

“There are ongoing discussions,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. “But hopefully (they’re) drawing to a conclusion.”

Bush is vacationing at his ranch in Texas.

The deal being discussed by U.S. and Iraqi negotiators sets a course for American combat troops to pull out of major Iraqi cities by next June, with a broader exit two years later from the long and costly war that began in March 2003.

The dates could be adjusted if security and political progress in Iraq deteriorate.

There are about 140,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, according to United States Central Command, and more than 4,100 American troops have been killed there.

Johndroe would not discuss specifics of the plan being negotiated, including the dates when U.S. troops might begin to leave. The president has previously resisted a timetable for the departure of U.S. troops.

“There are a lot of details that have to be worked out,” Johndroe said.

Increased security in Iraq, which the Bush administration said is due to the so-called surge of U.S. forces more than a year ago, created the conditions for the troop withdrawal negotiations to take place, Johndroe said.

The talks take place as Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama regularly trade shots over progress in Iraq and argue over who is better suited to be commander in chief when Bush leaves office in January.

Obama, the Democratic nominee in waiting, wants all U.S. forces out of Iraq within 16 months of his taking office, saying they are needed in Afghanistan.

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