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Iraqi Coalition Calls for Changes to US Military Plan


Iraq's ruling Shi'ite coalition Sunday unexpectedly called for changes in a draft document that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until 2011.

The statement by the United Iraqi Alliance, which includes the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said parts of the proposed agreement need more discussion and amendments before the deal can be approved.

In addition to setting a three-year deadline for U.S. troops to leave the country, the document gives the Iraqi government limited authority to prosecute U.S. soldiers who commit crimes off-duty and away from their posts.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday that it would be difficult to reopen negotiations on the draft at this point.

Prime Minister Maliki met with British Defense Secretary John Hutton today to work on a similar agreement for British troops.

The proposals are meant to take effect after a U.N. mandate for foreign forces in the country expires at the end of the year.

Saturday, tens of thousands of followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rallied in Baghdad, chanting anti-U.S. slogans, to protest the plans. Sadr said the deal will not end the U.S. military presence in Iraq and will not give sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

In other developments Sunday, police say two people were killed and 10 wounded, including two traffic policemen, when a roadside bomb exploded near a line of cars at a gas station in Baghdad's Zafaraniya neighborhood.

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

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