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Iraqi Parliament Delays Vote to Extend Presence of Non-US Forces


A dispute in Iraq's parliament has forced a delay in the approval of a resolution that would allow non-U.S. troops to remain in the country after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of this month.

Iraqi politicians have been predicting that parliament would approve a measure to allow non-U.S. troops to legally remain in the country until July of next year. But the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, suspended the legislative session after a number of deputies called for his resignation.

Al Mashhadani had threatened to resign his post last week during heated debate over the fate of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George Bush. He angered a number of lawmakers, who say he insulted them and should now keep his promise to resign.

It is not now clear when the parliament will meet again, but failure to approve an extension of the troop agreement would leave non-U.S. troops without a legal framework to remain in Iraq beyond December 31, when the U.N. mandate expires.

The last-minute impasse came after the Iraqi parliament was reported to have reached a compromise Sunday, transforming a draft law into a parliamentary resolution that would require only a simple majority to pass.

Hanin Mahmood, who sits on the Iraqi parliament's foreign relations committee, insists that some solution must be reached quickly to prevent foreign troops from going into a legal limbo.

She says that it is important that parliament gets this resolution passed so that there is no legal or security void for those troops remaining on Iraqi soil. The agreement concerns mainly British and Australian forces in Iraq. A number of other countries, including Estonia, Romania, El Salvador and Ukraine have troops in Iraq, as well.

Britain's Defense Minister contends that there are "contingency plans," but a "proper agreement" must be reached.

Parliament member Abbas Bayati of the United Iraqi Alliance party says several solutions are being contemplated to end the current stalemate.

He says parliamentarians are facing three choices: either to rely on the original draft law, once again -or sign bi-lateral agreements with each of the countries involved, and to do this before the end of the year -or to have parliament allow the government to make agreements with British, Ukrainian and Georgian forces to prepare for their withdrawal within six months.

The United States and Iraq have already concluded a new security pact that allows U.S. troops to remain in the country.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Iraq ast week and announced his forces would withdraw from their positions in southern Iraq by the end of July 2009.

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