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Iraqi Parliament Delays Vote on New Military Pact With US


After hours of wrangling, Iraq's top political parties agreed to postpone debate on a new military pact with the United States, intended to replace a U.N. mandate which expires on December 31, until tomorrow. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

It was a day of behind the scenes wrangling and public posturing by many Iraqi political leaders, ending with the Iraqi parliament session to approve the new military pact between Baghdad and the United States postponed until tomorrow. Members of parliament had already begun to arrive for the vote, so the last minute decision came as a surprise.

Iraq's National Security Advisor Muwafaq al Rubaie told Al Arabiya TV that the government is seeking a national consensus over the accord, and not just a simple majority, so the postponement is a positive development.

He also stressed that the government is trying to allay fears of various Iraqi factions over what would happen once the U.S. withdraws from the country, and that a referendum would be held in July of 2009 to determine if the U.S. was living up to its part of the agreement.

A member of parliament from Iraq's mostly Sunni Islamic Party, which has long opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq, told Iraqi TV that his party still opposes the accord, because it doesn't live up to the aspirations of most Iraqis.

Some Shi'ite factions, including that of Muqtada Sadr, who has 30 members in parliament, have also been trying to obstruct the accord.

Iraq's ruling Shi'ite United Iraq party, along with the Kurdish Alliance kept trying, until the last minute, to make concessions to Sunni Arab parties, in hopes of attaining a large majority to approve the military pact.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stressed that certain Iraqi parties were "also attempting to extract concessions from the government over internal political issues, before they would vote to approve the pact."

Member of parliament Sirwan Zahawi of the Kurdish Alliance argued that the new military pact is in the best interests of Iraq, and despite some reservations, his group supports it.

He said that the Kurdish Alliance has supported the new pact from the outset, and despite some minor reservations, he believes that the agreement is in the best interests of Iraq and that the positives outweigh the negatives.

Member of parliament Abbas Bayati, of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraq party also defended the accord, insisting that it had achieved most of the demands of those who are now opposing it.

He said that the agreement gives Iraqis the assurance that the U.S. will withdraw from their country and that Iraq will once again become a sovereign country. He added that the most important thing, now, is to come up with a united position in favor of the agreement. The government has listened to those who object to the accord, he argued, answering most of their demands.

Iraqi satellite TV al Iraqia interviewed ordinary Iraqis and most appeared to approve of the new military pact with the United States. A young Iraqi professor told al Iraqia that all sides were entitled to their point of view, but that the agreement is in the best interests of the country.

Many Iraqi opponents of the accord, he said, demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, and now they have one. He added that those parties who continue to oppose the agreement are talking from both sides of their face because the new agreement gives them everything that they say they wanted. The positive aspects of the agreement, he concluded, outweigh the negative.

Analysts had been expecting a narrow majority in parliament to approve the new military pact, which allows U.S. and coalition forces to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011.

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