|U.S. troops in Iraq unacceptable even without immunity: Sadrist Movement||
Iraqi political leaders have refused to grant immunity to the U.S. troopers, should any number of them stay in the country beyond the end of the year deadline.
On Tuesday the Sadrist Movement -- the political coalition loyal to the senior Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr -- raised serious objection to the stay of the U.S. forces even without the immunity, with the movement's representatives staging a mass walkout in protest, AFP reported.
“From the first meeting as a Sadrist Trend we showed our absolute rejection to keeping of the forces whether it is as trainers or others, whether it is with immunity or without immunity, and this rejection is fixed forever,'' said Bahaa al-Aaraji, a Sadrist lawmaker.
According to AP, senior Iraqi figures met in the capital, Baghdad, on Tuesday to discuss Washington's request for some of the troops to remain and 'train' Iraqi forces.
“The people who attended the meeting agreed there is no need to grant immunity; in addition to that they suggested training should take place in Iraqi military bases only,” said Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Ross Nouri Shawis.
The refusal came despite Washington's previous insistence on non-prosecution of its remaining forces.
Former Iraqi Premier and the leader of the al-Iraqiya Alliance, Ayad Allawi, as well as the Iraqi Vice President, Tariq al-Hashemi, also left the meeting.
There are about 43,500 American troops currently deployed in Iraq. Under a 2008-clinched bilateral security accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), all the troops are required to leave the country by the end of this year.
Earlier in the year, however, the White House started mounting pressure on the country to extend the presence, with the former U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, facing Baghdad with one such plea.
In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction allegedly stockpiled by the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. However, later it was revealed that not only did not the Iraqi regime possess the weapons, but also that the U.S. and British leaders, who had defended the military action, previously knew about their non-existence.
Over one million Iraqis have been killed during the invasion, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.
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