Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is urging Sunni lawmakers to back a security deal with the United States in a crucial parliamentary vote on Wednesday.
Iraqi Shi'ite and Kurdish parties have enough votes to secure narrow passage of the agreement in the 275-member assembly. But they are urging parliament's main Sunni faction, the Iraqi Accordance Front, to back the deal as well to give it greater legitimacy.
Members of the Sunni faction said Tuesday they would back the U.S.-Iraqi agreement if parliament passes political reforms giving them a greater say in political decisions. They also demanded a guarantee that the security pact will be put to a national referendum.
The deal would allow U.S. forces to keep operating in Iraq after their U.N. mandate expires next month, until the end of 2011.
In another development, a U.S. Marine and an American soldier were killed Tuesday in a shooting attack in northern Iraq.
The U.S. military says two gunmen opened fire on the American servicemen as they carried out a humanitarian operation west of the city of Mosul. The military says one of the attackers was wearing an Iraqi uniform, but it did not know if the man was an Iraqi soldier or an insurgent in disguise.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday that U.S. officials hope the U.S.-Iraqi security pact will be approved by Iraq's parliament.
Perino said recent violence in Baghdad shows that while Iraqis, in her words, "have come a long way" in improving security, they are "not quite there yet," as she put it, and still need U.S. support.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Tuesday that failure to pass the security pact would be "dangerous" and push Iraq into what he called the "unknown."
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.