Iraq’s cabinet Nov. 16 approved a security pact with the US that will allow American forces to stay for three years after their UN mandate expires at the end of the year. The decision follows months of negotiations and, pending parliamentary approval, would remove a major point of contention between Baghdad and Washington. Parliament’s deputy speaker, Khalid al-Attiyah, said he expected the 275-member legislature to begin debating the document this week and vote on it by Nov 24.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said all but one of the 28 cabinet ministers present at meeting voted for the pact by a show of hands, in addition to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The cabinet has 37 members “This is an important and positive step,” said US Embassy spokesman Adam Ereli.
The vote followed Washington’s decision last week to grant a final request by al-Maliki to amend the draft document. The amended version removed what al-Attiyah said was ambiguous language that could allow US forces not to adhere to a timeline for their withdrawal from Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and from the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. (AP, Nov. 17)