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Iraqi Parliament Debates US Security Deal


Iraqi lawmakers are expected to resume debate on a U.S.-Iraq security agreement, that would extend the U.S. troop presence in the country for another three years.

Parliament is expected to convene again Thursday, after Wednesday's session was cut short due to opposition from Iraqi lawmakers loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadrist members disrupted the session by shouting, and one lawmaker scuffled with guards.

Despite the opposition, the agreement is expected to pass because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ruling coalition dominates the legislature.

Parliament is expected to vote on the pact November 24.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials expressed confidence in the agreement. A Pentagon spokesman (Geoff Morrell) said Iraq's security situation and its forces have improved so dramatically that U.S. services will not be needed in Iraq by 2012.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held closed-door meetings with members of Congress Wednesday, in an effort to dispel any concerns about the agreement.

Ahead of the meetings, U.S. Representative William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he has reservations about the deal. Delahunt, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Congress was not properly consulted during negotiations with Iraq.

While U.S. and Iraqi officials have called the pact a firm commitment on the future of the American military presence, both sides have said that it could be renegotiated.

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