08/22/2008, 00.00
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Agreement in principle for US troop withdrawal from Iraq

US forces should start pulling leave Iraqi cities in June 2009 and from the entire country in 2011, but only if “conditions on the ground” allow it. Today the Political Council for National Security will vet the proposal for approval.
Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United States and Iraq are “very close to an agreement” that would allow US troops to pull out of the country. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it yesterday and her Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari repeated it today indicating that recent tensions between the two countries are being overcome.

US sources suggest that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is still “in principle” only. If accepted it would see US forces pull back from Iraqi cities in June 2009 “based on conditions on the ground,” something that has drawn sharp criticism from the Iraq's more anti-American political factions, like Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who urged his followers to demonstrated against Rice’s suspicious visit.

Media sources suggest that the 142,000 US troops still in Iraq would leave in 2011, but the US government has so far refused to be locked into a fixed date for withdrawing its forces.

Iraq’s Political Council for National Security is scheduled to review the deal finalised by Secretary Rice and Prime Minister al-Maliki, who was backed by some important political figures. the council itself includes the Presidential Council, the prime minister and the representatives of the main Iraqi parties.

The agreement will then go before the National Assembly on 9 September and if approved will be ratified by the Presidential Council which includes a Shia, a Sunni and a Kurd.

Broad segment of the Iraqi society still have some reservations, this according to Al Jazeera about agreements with a power which is considered by Iraqis as invaders.”

Other issues that need to be sorted out include immunity for US troops from Iraqi law and the status of prisoners held by American forces.


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