Iraqis protest security treaty with US

November 21st, 2008 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Nov 21 (Xinhua) Thousands of followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staged a protest in the capital Friday against a US-Iraqi security deal and prayed together with the members of the Sunni sect in a show of solidarity.Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area, blocking all roads leading to the route of the demonstration, the source said.

During the demonstration, Shia cleric Abdul Hadi al-Muhammadawi read a statement on behalf of Sadr, declaring that the Shias and Sunnis would forget their animosity and fight together against the treaty that allows presence of US troops in Iraq beyond 2008.

The statement said peaceful protests would be carried out against the security agreement.

The demonstration came a day after Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that the Iraqi parliament could pass the security pact that would allow US troops to stay in Iraq for another three years.

“I think chances still exist for the parliament to pass the agreement. They still have few decisive days,” Zebari told reporters during a joint news conference with his visiting Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini.

On Monday, Zebari and US envoy to Iraq Ryan Crocker initially signed the long-awaited Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

According to the Iraqi law, the draft pact must be approved by parliament and the presidency council to be valid.

On Sunday, the Iraqi cabinet almost unanimously approved the SOFA and another agreement of bilateral cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

For months, the two countries were at odds over the agreement, which the United States needs as a legitimate support to station its troops beyond 2008 when the current UN mandate ends.

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