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Iraq's Cabinet Approves Security Pact with US

  • VOA News

Iraq's cabinet has approved a security pact with the United States that allows U.S. troops to stay in the country until the end of 2011.

All but one of the 28 cabinet ministers present voted in favor of the deal today (Sunday) after almost a year of tough negotiations with Washington. The Iraqi parliament's deputy speaker says lawmakers will vote on it on November 24th.

The security pact gives U.S. forces a legal basis to remain in Iraq after their U.N. mandate expires at the end of next month. It also sets a timetable for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says at that point, Baghdad will try to reach a new agreement with Washington.

The White House welcomed the Iraqi cabinet's approval of the deal. But supporters of Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr denounced the move, saying it condones what they call the U.S. "occupation" of Iraq.

They threatened to hold mass protests against the security deal.

Hours after the cabinet vote, a suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi police checkpoint in (the town of Jalawla in) the eastern province of Diyala, killing 15 people and wounding 20 others.

Earlier in Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed three people, including two members of a pro-government Sunni militia.

Iraq's government pushed for a U.S. withdrawal deadline, while the Bush administration insisted that a pullout timetable be dictated by security conditions. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has called for withdrawing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office in January.

Some Iraqi leaders say a continued U.S. troop presence is needed until Iraqi security forces become self-sufficient.

Iraqi officials say the security pact gives them the right to prosecute U.S. troops and defense contractors for alleged crimes committed outside their bases and off-duty.

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