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Iraqi Parliament Passes Foreign Troop Measure

  • VOA News

Iraq's parliament has approved a measure allowing British and other non-U.S. foreign troops to stay in the country after the end of the year.

Lawmakers overwhelming voted Tuesday in favor of the measure, shortly after Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned. In a farewell speech, Mashhadani, a controversial Sunni politician whose insults of fellow lawmakers last week disrupted debate on the issue, apologized for his behavior.

The arrangement allows some four thousand British troops, as well as smaller forces from Australia, Estonia and Romania, to operate in Iraq until July.

If the measure had not passed before a United Nations mandate expires December 31st, the troops would have had no legal basis to operate in the country next year.

Separately, El Salvador, one of the remaining nations in the U.S.-led coalition, announced it will withdraw its troops at the end of this month.

That development came as Romania's parliament voted to maintain troops in Iraq in 2009, at the request of President Traian Basescu.

The U.S. and Iraq already have signed an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until the end of 2011.

In another development, Iraqi officials say authorities released a group of Iraqi security officials arrested last week and accused of working to rebuild the outlawed Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein.

In past days, there have been conflicting reports about whether the 23 security officials were still in custody.

Iraq's interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said Friday the arrests were motivated by politics. He denied the security and defense ministry officials were planning a coup.

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