Iraqi cabinet approves draft security pact with US

November 16th, 2008 - 7:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Nov 16 (DPA) The Iraqi cabinet Sunday approved the final version of a security pact with the United States.The draft was endorsed by 27 of the 28 members who attended the session, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told a press conference following the meeting.

He said the pact “is not ideal but it is the best possible option (for Iraq).”

Al-Dabbagh said both the US and Iraq agreed on the sticking point of how US military personnel could be made accountable for crimes they commit while off duty.

Al-Dabbagh explained that two committees, an Iraqi and a US, will be established to judge if those involved should be tried by Iraqi or US authorities.

Previously, Iraq wanted US troops who commit crimes off duty to be judged according to Iraqi law, while the US argued they should be handed to US authorities for trial.

The pact would establish a legal basis for the presence of US soldiers in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires at end of this year.

The draft agreement includes 31 articles and calls for US troops to pull out of Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the entire country by the end of 2011.

The draft will be sent to the 275-member parliament for approval before the agreement is signed by the US president and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The United States last week responded to Iraqi demands for changes in the text, which US officials described as final and said it was up to the Iraqis to push the process further.

Tarik Al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president, however said Saturday that the United States made “additional modifications” to the agreement in response to a request by al-Maliki

Iraq has secured the change in the name of the agreement known as the Status of Forces Agreement into “the Withdrawal of US Forces Agreement.”

It had also demanded the removal of any language from the text that might allow US troops to remain in Iraqi cities after Dec 31, 2011, and assurances that the United States would not use Iraqi territory to attack neighbouring countries like Iran or Syria.

To secure Shia backing, Al-Maliki Saturday dispatched two senior lawmakers to see influential Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, with a copy of the final draft.

In a note that was interpreted as implicit support for the agreement, al-Sistani told the two legislators - Khalid al-Attiyah and Ali al-Adeeb - that the document represented “the best available option” for Iraq, al-Jazeera news network reported Sunday.

The most vocal opposition to the pact, however, comes from fiery anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has called on his supporters to hold demonstrations for the US to “get out of our beloved Iraq.”

Tens of thousands of his supporters demonstrated in Baghdad in October against the draft security deal.

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