US refuses Baghdad request to discuss Iraq troop withdrawal
"At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership - not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
Iraq's parliament last week passed a non-binding resolution to oust US troops from the country.
The move came on the heels of a US drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine others, including the powerful deputy commander of an Iraqi network of militias, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The State Department has defended the US troop presence as aimed at fighting the Islamic State extremist group.
"America is a force for good in the Middle East," Ortagus said.
"We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous and stable Iraq," she added.
After a withdrawal ordered by former president Barack Obama, US troops were invited back in 2014 to help defeat the extremist Islamic State group.
Despite Abdul Mahdi's condemnation of both American and Iranian "violations" of Iraqi sovereignity, his government in Baghdad is widely seen by protesters as beholden to Tehran.
Iraq has witnessed an unprecedented mass protest movement since early October. A bloody crackdown on the demonstrations, which have mostly taken place in the capital and southern Iraq, has killed almost 500 people.
The country's top Shia Muslim authority on Friday condemned both powers for theatening to plunge war-torn Iraq deeper into conflict.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said the series of attacks by both countries were a violation of Iraqi sovereignity and no foreign powers should be allowed to decide the country's fate, Reuters reported.
"The use of over-the-top methods by different sides which possess power and influence... will only entrench the crisis and prevent a solution," he said in a weekly message delivered by a representative during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala.
"The [Iraqi] people have suffered enough from wars... Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making."
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