‘US sovereign rights over Iraq unacceptable’July 10th, 2008 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS
Baghdad, July 10 (DPA) Iraqi Vice-President Adel Abdel-Mahdi, reflecting his country’s increasing confidence and desire to be sovereign, said the US military presence in the country should be brought under Iraqi control, a newspaper reported Thursday. Abdel-Mahdi told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the Iraqi government was seeking in ongoing negotiations with Washington to end unlimited powers and sovereign rights that the US-led multinational troops have, including immunity from prosecution.
Whether these troops leave Iraq or stay there, their presence has to be brought under Iraqi control, the Shia vice-president said.
“A country like Iraq - one of the founders of the UN - cannot be placed under occupation in the 21st Century. The US military commander (in Iraq) can arrest any Iraq citizen while we can not arrest any US soldier even if he commits the worst of crimes,” Abdel-Mahdi added.
The US and Iraq are now negotiating to establish the legal status of US troops before a UN mandate expires at the end of this year.
Iraqi officials have come out openly in the past days to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops and rebuffed Washington’s initial demand that independent security contractors in Iraq be granted blanket immunity from prosecution under Iraq law.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he was seeking a less sweeping shorter-term memorandum of understanding rather than a long-term security pact with the US.
His statement reflects a more assertive Iraq seeking to regain its sovereignty amid improving security and more responsibilities assumed by its troops.
Abdel-Mahdi, whose Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq bloc is a close ally of the US, said Iraqi leaders were stopped at US-manned security checkpoints on their way to work.
“Orders given by Iraq’s president, vice-President or prime minister do not carry any weight. Others call the shots here although we are on Iraqi territory and we are sitting in the government’s headquarters,” Abdel-Mahdi said.
Iraq has been seeking to change those conditions since November 2003, according to Abdel-Mahdi, but former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld forestalled talks then evaded the issue.