A top military spokesman in Iraq is disputing reports that Gen. David Petraeus and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s relationship is so strained that Maliki has considered calling for Petraeus’ ouster.

In a story by The Associated Press (published in Stars and Stripes on July 30), a lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc who was quoted anonymously reported hearing al-Maliki tell Petraeus he would demand that Washington replace the general, who took overall command of the U.S. effort in Iraq this February.

U.S. Army Col. Steven Boylan did say in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes that Petraeus and al-Maliki “have very frank, open, and perhaps direct conversations and continue to do so. Based on what is at stake here, that is what is needed and it should be expected that both are able to have very open and frank dialogue.”

The Associated Press quoted by name an al-Maliki aide as saying “it is possible that we may demand \[Petraeus’\] removal.

Boylan also criticized London’s The Daily Telegraph, which reported that a shouting match had taken place between the two, or that their relationship was “stormy.”

“This is a totally fabricated story,” Boylan said in the e-mail. “Gen. Petraeus has never stated or even hinted at a ‘stormy relationship.’ Saying that they do not pull punches is very different from stormy.”

On Monday, an AP spokesman said the military’s “objections arose from a story in the Daily Telegraph in which that publication took quotes gathered by the AP and added its own material and its own words.”

Both the military and the Iraqi government have acknowledged that some U.S. tactics have concerned al-Maliki.

One of the troublesome issues is the U.S. military’s recruitment of Sunni tribes in Anbar and Diyala provinces to fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. Al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been criticized for not reining in security forces accused of sectarian attacks, reportedly threatened to arm Shiite militias in return.

The Associated Press defended its story, citing a previous Petraeus interview, in which the U.S. commander noted that in discussions with Maliki, “I’m going to speak up. And I have on occasion. And on a couple of occasions have demonstrated the full range of emotions.”

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