US - Iraq pact close to ratification
It's taken a long time to get this far and the referendum next year may be another avenue to wedge the Americans out earlier than the end of 2011.
BAGHDAD (Reuters): Iraq's parliament on Thursday approved a security pact with the United States that paves the way for U.S. forces to withdraw by the end of 2011, taking the country a big step closer to full sovereignty.
The pact replaces an expiring U.N. mandate. It gives Iraq authority over about 150,000 U.S. troops in the country, who will be obliged to withdraw from towns by mid-2009, and makes them liable for some crimes committed when they are off duty.
Lawmakers in Iraq's 275 seat parliament passed the deal with 149 MPs out of 198 present voting for it. The pact consists of a Status of Forces Agreement and a long-term strategic framework agreement, which defines U.S.-Iraqi ties for years to come.
In the end, Iraq's Shi'ite-led coalition and Kurdish partners agreed to link the pact to the referendum and a package of reforms, such as speeding up the release of mainly Sunni detainees captured by the United States at the height of the sectarian violence.
The agreement was opposed to the last by lawmakers loyal to firebrand Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who want an immediate U.S. withdrawal. They held up banners and loudly chanted, "No, no to the pact. Yes, yes to Iraq," as parliament voted.
Ratification by Iraq's president and two vice presidents is expected to be formality.
Iraq won a number of concessions in the agreement, including a hard timeline for withdrawal, the right to search US military cargo and the right to try US soldiers for crimes committed while they are off their bases and off-duty.
The agreement also requires that US troops obtain Iraqi permission for all military operations, and that they hand over the files of all detainees in US custody to the Iraqi authorities, who will decide their fate.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International warned after the vote that thousands of Iraqi detainees in US military prisons could face torture or execution at the hands of their own government.
The pact would meanwhile forbid US troops from making any further arrests without Iraqi authorisation.
The referendum is scheduled to be held by the end of July next year, Iraqi officials said.
Full text (translated) of the The strategic framework for the relationship of friendship and cooperation Between the Republic of Iraq And the U.S from the Iraqi government website.
Section I: Principles of Cooperation
This Convention on a number of General principles to chart the course of the future relationship between the two countries as follows:
Relationship based on friendship and cooperation to mutual respect, principles and recognized standards of international law and to meet international obligations and the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, rejected the use of violence to settle Differences.
The presence of a strong Iraq capable of defending itself is essential for stability in the region.
The temporary presence of United States forces in Iraq is the request of the sovereign Government of Iraq, and with full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.
The United States should not use the lands and waters and airspace of Iraq starting point or a corridor to launch attacks on other countries and does not request or seek to be Have permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq.