Thousands of Iraqis loyal to the Sadr movement protested in Kufa Aug. 29 to denounce the pending Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which they called a plan for the long-term US occupation of the country. Militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the peaceful protests after Friday prayers. It was the 13th such demonstration against the SOFA.
Last November, George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki agreed in principle to formalize by July 31 the pact which would provide a legal basis to US troops in the country once the current UN mandate expires in December. But the pact remains stalled by opposition in Baghdad. Opponents express concerns over such issues as a time-table for withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, the number of bases Washington would retain, and the question of immunity from Iraqi laws for US troops. (Press TV, Iran, Aug. 30)