US presses Iraq on military forces pact (Lead)

October 22nd, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Oct 22 (DPA) Bombings claimed several lives across Iraq Wednesday as the Iraqi and US governments haggled over an agreement to keep US forces in Iraq. Without the agreement, the US government says, violence could increase in Iraq.

Washington is increasing pressure on Baghdad to sign off on the agreement without amendments, according to Al-Sabah, an Iraqi newspaper close to the administration.

It reported Wednesday that US diplomats and military officials had “begun a massive campaign to convince sceptical members of the administration.”

The move comes a day after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of “pretty dramatic” consequences if a proposed agreement on the status of US forces in Iraq is not approved by Iraqi lawmakers before the end of the year.

The stand-off comes as Iraqi media reported six deaths across the country in a series of bombings Wednesday.

According to news agencies, four civilians died in Mosul when a car bomb was detonated in the city’s al-Thawra neighbourhood. Three others were injured in the explosion.

Separately, one militant was killed and another was injured in Mosul when their bomb detonated after they were interrupted by police.

Three separate bombings were also reported in Iraq, killing one civilian and injuring at least six others.

Additionally, the US military reported the death of a US soldier on Oct 16 in Diyala province.

Unless the so-called Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government is legally in force when a United Nations mandate expires at the end of December, US forces will be left without a mandate in the war-torn country.

After months of difficult negotiations, Washington and Baghdad reached agreement last week on a final text of the security pact, which must still be approved by lawmakers in both countries.

The agreement would establish the legal basis for a continued US military presence in Iraq after Dec 31.

A number of Iraqi politicians and lawmakers have already come out against the deal as an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty, and members
of the Iraqi Council of Ministers have called for amendments.

In Tuesday’s interview, Gates said that the US government had “great reluctance” to renegotiate the draft text now under consideration.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said Tuesday that the security agreement with Washington is unlikely to win approval in
Iraqi parliament prior to the Nov 4 US presidential election.

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