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“They’re very aware of the urgency of the issue,” said Mullen. “It was apparent to me in meeting with both the prime minister and the president that they’re anxious to resolve and reconcile those differences. but that’s really up to them.”

Al-Maliki said in a statement on his website late Monday that he hoped Iraqi political blocs would be able to reach a consensus Tuesday night when they are expected to meet.

The Shiite prime minister stressed that regardless of the decision on U.S. troops that he wanted Washington and Baghdad to continue cooperation, especially in the area of air defense.

Iraq is unable to provide for its own air sovereignty. Over the weekend al-Maliki announced that Iraq would purchase 36 F-16 fighter planes from the U.S., which is a jump from the 18 that Baghdad initially planned to buy.

But even after the purchase goes through it would take years of training for the Iraqi Air Force to be able to protect its air space.