Iraq parliament OKs pact on U.S. troops' future

Other News Materials 27 November 2008 18:38 (UTC +04:00)

After months of tough negotiations and intense political wrangling, Iraqi lawmakers Thursday approved the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, a pact that allows the presence of American troops in Iraq for three more years, reported dpa.

The vote -- which now must be ratified unanimously by the country's three-member presidency council -- came after a compromise on a reform package that Sunni Arab politicians demanded in return for backing the agreement.

There were 198 lawmakers from the 275-member parliament present for the vote and 149 of those members voted for the security pact.

Parliament also passed another U.S.-Iraqi bilateral pact called the strategic framework agreement, and the reform legislation, a crucial step for Sunni support of the agreement.

Sunni Arabs were not against the historic security agreement, but they were concerned that Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would have too much power when the security agreement goes into effect. They wanted legislation that would underscore their constitutional interests and rights.

Although they were confident they had enough votes to pass the security pact, al-Maliki's government, as well as Shiite and Kurdish leaders, wanted to work out a political reform deal with the Sunni Arabs so there could be national unity on the security pact.

The political deal that led to the passage of the security agreement virtually assures its ratification by Iraq's presidency council, which consists of Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi and Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

Lawmakers loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and others had been staunch opponents of the security pact, which spells out the role of U.S. troops in Iraq, and replaces a U.N. mandate that expires at the end of year. But there was overwhelming support for the measure from other quarters.

The Sadrists made loud protests against the agreement during the brief parliament session.

The proposed security pact, reached after months of negotiations between Iraqi and U.S. representatives, sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. The date for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq would be December 31, 2011.