The Bush administration on Wednesday warned of "real consequences'' for Iraq if it rejects a newly negotiated security pact. Without a deal, the US could be forced to end its military operations. The White House said Iraqi security forces are incapable of keeping the peace without US troops, raising the specter of reversals in recent security and political gains if the proposed security deal is not approved by the time the current legal basis for US military operations expires Dec. 31. "There will be no legal basis for us to continue operating there without that,'' White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "And the Iraqis know that. And so, we're confident that they'll be able to recognize this. And if they don't, there will be real consequences, if Americans aren't able to operate there.'' At the Pentagon, press secretary Geoff Morrell said the US fallback position is to extend the UN Security Council mandate authorizing US-led coalition operations in Iraq, but he emphasized that the Bush administration's preference is to complete a bilateral U.S.-Iraqi agreement. "Our focus is entirely on trying to get this deal done,'' Morrell said. Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not had direct contacts with Iraqi officials since Baghdad announced earlier this week that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki determined that unspecified changes to the draft accord are required. The spokesman said it was not clear what changes the Iraqis are demanding. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the draft agreement "both protects our troops and the Iraqi sovereignty'' and would stand as it was negotiated. "It is a good agreement,'' Rice told reporters traveling with her Wednesday to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she was to meet her Mexican counterpart, Patricia Espinosa. Rice would not say whether she opposes the Iraqi Cabinet petition to reopen negotiations. "I understand the Iraqis themselves recognize they are not ready to operate without the coalition forces yet,'' Rice said. At the State Department, spokesman Robert Wood said time was running short. "It's time for the Iraqis to step up to the plate and take a decision,'' Wood said. He insisted that the administration had yet to hear anything official from the Iraqi government on its position or its suggestions for possible amendments. "These statements are not welcomed in Iraq,'' Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. "All Iraqis realize the volume of their responsibilities and they appreciate the importance of signing the pact or not in the way they deem it proper.'' Al-Dabbagh added: "A compulsory method must not be imposed on their choice and it is improper to address Iraqis in such manner.'' Morrell said the Iraqis should not take Mullen's comments as an attempt to force anything on them. "That couldn't be further from the truth,'' Morrell said. "We are not trying to pressure the Iraqis or force the Iraqis into signing anything they don't wish to sign.'' In subsequent remarks Wednesday, Mullen said he believes the Iraqis are not ready to provide their own defense, according to a Pentagon account of comments to reporters traveling with him.