[QODLink]
Middle East
Iraqis march against US agreement
Al-Sadr supporters fear a security deal would mean permanent colonisation of Iraq.
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2008 18:55 GMT
Supporters of al-Sadr protested the US pact after Friday prayer in Baghdad [AFP]

Thousands of Iraqis have marched in protest against an imminent US-Iraqi security agreement, saying it would turn the country into a colony of the US.

Demonstrations on Friday by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shia leader, both in Baghdad and the southern city of Kufa, come as US and Iraqi negotiators continue to hammer out final details on an agreement.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, met Iraqi leaders in a surprise visit to the country a day earlier to put pressure on Iraqi leaders to push through the deal.

According to US and Iraqi sources, the draft agreement calls for US soldiers to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of next June.

They would remain on bases across the country, however, providing backup support to Iraqi forces until the end of 2011.

When finalised, the pact will still have to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament and the veto-wielding presidency council.

Public outcry

Al-Sadr and other critics fear that the pullout deal will bind the US and Iraq into a long-term security relationship, instead of restoring Iraqi sovereignty.

In Kufa, about 2,000 protesters marched after Friday prayers, chanting "No to America" and wielding portraits of al-Sadr and waving Iraqi flags.

Some held up banners reading "The dubious agreement means a permanent colonisation of Iraq" and "Iraq is not a US colony".

An aide to al-Sadr, Sheik Dia al-Shawki, told those gathered that the deal goes against the will of the Iraqi people.

In Baghdad's Sadr City district, supporters set fire to American flags while local leaders denounced an ambiguous agreement "that the Iraqi people know nothing about".

One of the most contentious issues of the security deal is Iraqi jurisdiction over US soldiers and military contractors, as the Iraqi forces assume greater responsibility.

The draft agreement says that private US contractors would be subject to Iraqi law - unlike at present. However, US troops would remain under US jurisdiction.

Mohammed Hamoud Bidan, Iraq's deputy foreign minister, on Friday told CNN that jurisdiction would be determined by a joint legal committee in cases of US citizens who commit major crimes against Iraqi civilians.

The deputy minister also repeated June 30 as the deadline for a US troop pullout from Iraqi cities.

Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
French Jews and Muslims say recent National Front victories in mayoral races reflect rising xenophobia.
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
The Pakistani government is proposing reform of the nation's madrassas, which are accused of fostering terrorism.
Weaving and handicrafts are being re-taught to a younger generation of Iraqi Kurds, but not without challenges.
Featured
Up to 23,000 federal prisoners could qualify for clemency under new Justice Department initiative.
After years of rapid growth, Argentina is bracing for another economic crisis as inflation eats up purchasing power.
Deaths of 13 Sherpas in Nepal has shone a light on dangerous working conditions in the Everest-climbing industry.
Al Jazeera investigation uncovers allegations of beatings and rape in Kenya's ongoing anti-terrorism operation.
Incumbent Joyce Banda has a narrow lead, but anything is possible in Malawi's May 20 elections.
join our mailing list