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BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's Cabinet on Sunday approved a security pact with the United States that will allow American forces to stay in Iraq for three years after their U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year, the government said.But the real debate begins in parliament:
Al-Dabbagh said the agreement will be submitted to parliament later Sunday, but did not say when the 275-member legislature will vote on the document.Update: Reuters headline: "Iraq, US sign pact on troops withdrawal deadline". (As predicted, that's what they're calling the SOFA now.)
BAGHDAD, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker signed a long-awaited accord on Monday requiring Washington to withdraw its forces within three years.Rest here. According to Reuters, "Under the deal, U.S. troops will leave the streets of Iraqi towns and villages by the middle of next year and leave Iraq altogether by the end of 2011. The deal also provides for Iraqi courts try U.S. soldiers for serious crimes committed while off duty, but only under very tight conditions."
The signing ceremony put a formal end to months of negotiations over the pact on the future of the U.S. presence, which the Iraqi government approved on Sunday. The pact must still be passed in the Iraqi parliament, but the government is confident it will achieve this by the end of the month.
"Definitely, today is an historic day for Iraqi-American relations, signing the security pact after months of difficult talks and negotiations," Zebari told reporters after exchanging signed copies with Crocker. Both men smiled and enthusiastically shook hands as officials applauded.
Apart from the troops pact, the two men signed a long-term strategic framework, which Crocker said would define relations between the countries for years in "economy, culture, science, technology, health and trade, just to name a few."
"It reminds us all that, at a time when U.S. forces will continue to withdraw from Iraq in recognition of the superlative security gains over the last few years, our relationship will develop in many other important ways."
Hopefully soon we'll actually get to see the agreement, and determine whether reports of all U.S. troops leaving Iraq are accurate, or whether (per President-elect Obama's Iraq plan) many will remain behind.
Previously: Positions on the SOFA.