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Iraqi FM Says Security Pact With US 'Almost Finalized'


Iraq's foreign minister says his government and the United States have "almost finalized" a long-term security pact.

Hoshyar Zebari said Wednesday that Washington has shown, in his words, a "great deal of flexibility" in the negotiations. Both sides hope to reach a deal this month that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after their U.N. mandate expires in December.

Zebari said Tuesday that the U.S. had agreed to Iraqi demands to end the legal immunity granted to foreign contractors in Iraq. Negotiators also are discussing how much power the U.S. military will have to detain Iraqi citizens and patrol Iraq's air space.

In other developments, Iraqi security forces detained three prominent supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday. The suspects were detained in the southern province of Maysan, where they serve on the provincial council.

Iraqi police say the three detainees are suspected of supporting Shi'ite militias.

A spokesman for Sadr criticized the arrests and accused the Iraqi government of targeting the cleric's supporters.

In other developments Wednesday, the U.S. military said coalition forces captured three criminals and seized weapons during several raids in Baghdad. It says two of those detained are Iranian-backed Shi'ite insurgents.

Also, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari said Jordan's King Abdullah plans to visit Iraq soon. The king would be the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Zebari said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also is expected to visit Iraq. He said no date has been set for either trip.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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