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US-Iraq security pact faces objections
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By Jamal Hashim  

The long-delayed agreement which will keep the US troops in Iraq after 2008 is confronted with objections as the expiration of the UN mandate is looming near.

The largest political bloc in the parliament, the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA), raised issue with a draft of the agreement on Sunday, further blurring the prospect that the deal will be able to come through by year's end.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki reviewed with top leaders of the UIA the current draft and said changes still needed to be made in order to guarantee Iraq's sovereignty and the interests of its people, according to a statement by the Shiite camp which groups Maliki's Dawa party and the powerful Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC).

"Although there are positive points in this agreement, there are others which need more time for discussion, dialogue and modifications for some articles," the statement said.

It did not specify which points the leaders were unsatisfied with.

Yet, a senior figure of the UIA told the Arabia TV channel that the leaders had reservations on seven items, including immunity for US troops and contractors.

The negotiations, which commenced in sincere in March, have overshot a planned deadline at the end of July amid heated haggles over items the Iraqis regard as concerning national sovereignty and interests.

Both sides have not yet published formal and completed version of the security agreement.

Iraqi and US officials have reportedly said the sticking point was whether US military personnel and contractors would be subject to the Iraqi law, at least partially.

Reports said the US side would have jurisdiction over its troops and contractors involved in crimes within their bases or during authorized missions, while Iraqi authorities would be able to deal with cases concerning serious offenses by those people when they are outside of agreed areas or during off-duty times.

The agreement also contains a timetable for the withdrawal of the US military from Iraqi cities and towns by June 30, 2009 and from Iraqi territory by December 31, 2011. But the stay could be extended if the Iraqi government would ask so based on condition assessment.

If failed in reaching the deal, Iraq and the US will have to seek to renew the UN authorization to make the American troops to stay there legally.

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