Iraq's government spokesman denied on Friday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had criticised United States President George W Bush in comments carried by an Italian newspaper, saying the report was "intolerable".
"News agencies quoted the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera as saying that Maliki had criticised the US administration, describing it as being in a serious dilemma following the Republican's defeat (in November congressional elections)," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
"We stress that these statements are not true at all. They are rather an interpretation and misunderstanding by the newspaper reporter that contradicts Maliki's words. This is intolerable," he said in a statement.
On Thursday, the Italian daily quoted Maliki as saying: "I have the impression that it is them in Washington who are near the end, and not us in Baghdad."
Maliki had spoken on Wednesday with a small group of Western newspaper reporters after Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made comments, some of which were later retracted, seen as critical of Maliki's government.
Referring to comments by Rice to a US congressional panel on January 11, Maliki was quoted by Britain's The Times newspaper as saying: "Certain officials are going through a crisis.
"Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the government is on borrowed time.
"I don't think we are on borrowed time."
Rice has since blamed the episode on translation problems and said she was "sorry" if Maliki was offended.
The US administration has also sought to put its crucial relationship with Maliki back on track, with White House spokesman Tony Snow saying: "The president is absolutely resolute and steadfast in his support of this government."