Iraq signs security pact with US on stationing troops

November 17th, 2008 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Nov 17 (Xinhua) Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and the US envoy to Iraq Ryan Crocker signed Monday the long-awaited security pact which would allow US forces to remain in the country for three more years, state-run TV reported.”This is an historic day for the Iraqi and US relations,” Zebari said during the signing ceremony.

He said the agreement has to be approved by parliament before it goes into force, adding that “there is a positive atmosphere among the political leaders.”

The Iraqi cabinet Sunday approved the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and another agreement of bilateral cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

“The cabinet has just approved the security agreement between Iraq and United States unanimously,” government spokesman, Ali al- Dabbagh told a news conference in Baghdad.

He said that 27 of the 28 cabinet members who attended Sunday’s meeting voted in favour of the agreement.

According to the draft pact, the US troops will withdraw from Iraq’s cities, towns and villages by June 30 next year to their bases and will leave the country Dec 31, 2011.

The US welcomed the approval of the SOFA, with National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe describing it as “an important and positive step.”

“While the process is not yet complete, we remain hopeful and confident we’ll soon have an agreement that serves both the peoples of Iraq and the United States well and sends a signal to the region and the world that both our governments are committed to a stable, secure and democratic Iraq,” the White House official said.

For months, the two countries were at odds over the agreement, which the US needs as a legitimate support for stationing its troops beyond 2008 after the current UN mandate ends Dec 31.

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