Iraq: US pact changes not enough

Government spokesman says Washington should offer new amendments to security pact.

    The agreement faces opposition from the Shia community [AFP]

    However, on Tuesday Al-Dabbagh told Al Jazeera that there was optimism from Baghdad that a deal with the US would be made.

    There was no immediate comment from US officials, who had described the latest draft submitted to the Iraqis as a "final text".

    Privately, however, some US officials have said they expect protracted haggling over the agreement, with the Iraqis pressing for more concessions until the last minute.

    'Suitable answers'

    "There are still some points in which we have not reached a bilateral understanding," al-Dabbagh told the Associated Press news agency.

    He said the government was inviting the US "to give answers that are suitable to the Iraqis".

    The agreement must be approved by parliament before the Decemeber 31 expiration of the UN mandate that allows US troops to operate legally.

    Without an agreement or a new UN mandate, US military operations would have to stop as of January 1, 2009.

    Al-Dabbagh did not spell out in detail what points the Iraqis still find unacceptable, but they probably include Baghdad's demand for expanded legal jurisdiction over US soldiers.

    The current draft allows Iraqi courts to prosecute soldiers accused of major, premeditated crimes allegedly committed off post and off duty.

    The Iraqis had asked for elaboration on those charges and a greater role in determining whether specific cases met the criteria for trial in their courts.

    But the agreement faces strong opposition, especially within the majority Shia community which is the base of political support of Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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