Oct 22 11:55 AM US/Eastern

A deal governing the long-term presence of US troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2008 is more or less done, and any changes would be merely fine-tuning, the White House said Wednesday.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it well yesterday saying "the door wasn't slammed shut but it's pretty much closed in our opinion."

Negotiators would have "a very high bar for them to clear" if there were to be any changes at this stage, she added.

To the apparent frustration of the Americans, the Iraqi cabinet decided on Tuesday to seek changes in the pact after months of tough negotiations between Baghdad and Washington.

And Iraq warned earlier Wednesday that it would not be bullied into signing the pact with the United States despite US leaders warning of potentially dire consequences if it failed to approve the deal.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh lashed out US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen for saying that Baghdad risked significant losses if an agreement is not concluded to keep American forces in the country beyond 2008.

"It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way," Dabbagh said.

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