Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki 'will not sign' the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) over fears that it might create division in the country.
A lawmaker from the United Iraqi Alliance, Iraq's most powerful parliamentary bloc, made the announcement, adding that a "national consensus" is required before any move, the McClatchy Newspaper reported on Saturday.
MP Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, who is also the deputy head of Iraq's Supreme Islamic Council, added that the country's political leaders are thinking about alternative options, including an extension of the UN mandate for the presence of US troops inside the country.
According to the report, Russia has assured Baghdad that it would not veto any motion at the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of US troops inside Iraq.
If the agreement is shelved, the Bush Administration, which has been seeking to provide a legal basis for the presence of US troops in Iraq, will suffer a major setback in the twilight months of George W. Bush in office.
The report comes while Ali al-Adeeb, the chief of staff of al-Maliki's Dawa party announced Wednesday that the Iraqi parliament "cannot approve this pact in its current form."
SOFA would also grant a form of immunity from legal prosecution to US citizens inside the country and it would allow the US to set up permanent military bases in Iraq. Many Iraqi political and religious leaders consider SOFA as a humiliating agreement which would turn Iraq into a de facto US colony.
Sat, 25 Oct 2008 18:40:21 GMT
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