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Archive for Monday, October 20, 2008

Iraqi bloc demands pullout deadline

October 20, 2008

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— Key members of the Iraqi parliament's largest political bloc have called for all American troops to leave this country in 2011 as a condition for allowing the U.S. military to stay here beyond year's end, officials said Sunday.

The change sought by the influential United Iraqi Alliance would harden the withdrawal date for U.S. troops. A draft bilateral agreement would require American forces to leave by December 2011, but allows for an extension by mutual agreement.

The Shiite bloc, which includes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party, also insists that Iraqi officials have a bigger role in determining whether U.S. soldiers accused of wrongdoing are subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts, said Sami al-Askeri, a political adviser to al-Maliki. That proposal has been resisted by the Pentagon.

If the Iraqi Alliance's conditions are not met, "I cannot see that this agreement will see the light," said Askeri, who is also a lawmaker from al-Maliki's party.

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. side would accept the changes to the draft agreement. The document would provide legal authority for American troops to remain in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31. If there is no accord or other legal cover for U.S. forces, they must leave.

The Bush administration has long resisted setting firm dates for the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq.

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