Maliki to Hakim: SOFA aimed to regulate U.S. troops in Iraq
TEHRAN – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has assured the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council chief that the security pact with Washington is intended to “regulate” the presence of U.S. troops until 2011 that they will remain in Iraq, the Voice of Iraq news agency reported on Friday.“We do not call agreement with America a security agreement, but (we) call it a pact of retreating of (U.S.) troops and regulating their presence during the specified time,” Malik told Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on Thursday.
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have been struggling for months to finalize the text of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).
Meanwhile, an MP close to Maliki told AFP on Thursday that Baghdad wants to delete any reference in the draft security pact with Washington to the possibility of U.S. troops staying in Iraq after 2011.
The demand is one of five amendments proposed by Iraq, said Ali al-Adib, a Dawa party member of parliament.
“The Iraqi government wants to remove from the agreement any mention of a possible extension of the American presence in Iraq,” he said.
The draft pact says U.S. forces will withdraw from towns and neighborhoods by the end of June next year and from the whole country by 2011.
In the latest version, clause four of section 25, dealing with the withdrawal of American troops, allows “the possibility for each party to ask the other to put back or bring forward the date of withdrawal.”
It says any such change must “have the approval of both sides”.
Concerning immunity for American soldiers, another of the thorny issues of the agreement, Adib said: “We want the joint U.S.-Iraqi command and not just American forces to decide whether or not a soldier suspected of crime was on a mission.”
Clause nine of section 12 of the most recent version grants immunity from Iraqi law to American soldiers if they were on a mission when the crime was committed.
Maliki will submit a revised text to Washington after including the amendments sought by his ministers.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday promised to consider Baghdad’s proposed changes but warned against shifts that risked “undermining” the accord