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Iraqi Officials Consider Extension Options for US Troops


U.S. soldiers walk past tanks at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. U.S troops are scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of this year, according to a 2008 security pact between the U.S. and Iraq, (File September 30, 2011).

U.S. soldiers walk past tanks at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. U.S troops are scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of this year, according to a 2008 security pact between the U.S. and Iraq, (File September 30, 2011).

Senior Iraqi officials say they are considering several options for allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond the end of the year.

In comments published Monday, the officials said they expect a limited number of troops will stay past the current deadline, as discussions with U.S. officials continue.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the Reuters news agency that U.S. military trainers could remain as part of an existing U.S. embassy training mission or join a NATO training group.

Those options would sidestep the issue of granting immunity to the soldiers if they operate in a military capacity. The United States is insisting that current immunity protections be extended if military trainers are to remain, while some Iraqi leaders have rejected the idea.

The general-secretary of the Iraqi Cabinet, Ali al-Alaak, told the French news agency that Iraq is insisting on not giving the U.S. soldiers immunity, and that it is possible there will be no training mission at all.

Granting the soldiers immunity protection would mean allowing Iraq some jurisdiction over American forces for certain crimes committed outside duty. But the United States would retain prime responsibility for crimes committed during duty or on its bases.

There are about 43,500 U.S. troops in Iraq. Under the 2008 security arrangement, all are required to leave by the end of the year.

Also Monday, officials said six workers clearing mines near the city of Basra died Saturday when a pile of mines that had been gathered for a controlled detonation exploded. Iraq has one of the worst mine problems in the world following decades of war.

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

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