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Middle East
Iraq troop debate ends in uproar
Parliament speaker walks out of house after arguments over Bush shoe-throwing incident.
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2008 15:56 GMT
Protests have occurred in Baghdad over
the imprisoning of al-Zaidi [AFP]

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq's parliament speaker, has threatened to resign following house arguments concerning the presence of foreign troops and the imprisonment of a local journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush.

Furor descended on parliament on Wednesday when legislators bickered over whether Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who hurled his shoes at the US president on Sunday, should be released from jail.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mahmoud Othman, an Iraqi member of parliament, said it had been argued that keeping an Iraqi journalist in jail while debating immunity for foreign forces in Iraq was unjust.

"The speaker got angry after tension and tough discussions on an issue which related to a law sent to us by the government about the stay of British and some other forces," he said.

"There were hot discussions exchanged between the speaker and some of the other MPs and between the MPs themselves. And some of the MPs connected this to the Muntadhar al-Zaidi problem.

"The whole thing escalated ... the speaker got very angry. He got up and said I can't work like this in this parliament and I am resigning officially ... and he stormed out."

No concrete resignation

However, Othman said that the speaker has not actually tendered his resignation as yet.

The house has been attempting to ratify a treaty on the grounds for prosecution of foreign troops in Iraq and who has jurisdiction over such cases - the US or Iraq - in recent months, to considerable parliamentary and public consternation.

In the US, Dana Perino, the White House spokesperson, said that the Bush administration had put the shoe-throwing incident behind it.

At a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, Perino, who was sporting a black eye from a scuffle which broke out after al-Zaidi launched his shoes, joked to journalists: "The shoe check-in and check-out policy will begin tomorrow.

"We hold no hard feelings about it, and we've really moved on."

Folk hero

Al-Zaidi has become a folk hero to some in Iraq after he threw his shoes at Bush, who ordered the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, during a news conference in Baghdad.

Protests occurred in Baghdad on Monday and Tuesday over al-Zaidi's arrest after the incident.

The journalist faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of breaking the Iraqi law of "aggression against a president".

Al-Zaidi's brother on Tuesday accused Iraqi police of mistreating al-Zaidi in custody, including breaking his hand.

Bush was on a surprise farewell trip to Iraq and was giving a joint news conference with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, at the time of the incident.

Bush ducked each flying shoe and appeared unscathed by al-Zaidi's consecutive verbal abuse.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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