Iraq's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric has expressed concern about the
security pact approved earlier this week allowing U.S. troops to remain
in the country for three more years.
A senior aide to Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Saturday that the influential cleric
fears the deal will not guarantee Iraq's sovereignty. He also said he
feels there is no national consensus on it.
The aide said
Ayatollah al-Sistani supports holding a referendum on the pact, which
lawmakers agreed to do in order to get the approval of the main Sunni
The reclusive cleric does not often get directly
involved in politics, but his views carry immense weight in Iraq's
large Shi'ite community.
Iraqi lawmakers signed the security
pact with the United States earlier this week. It was approved by the
main Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish factions, but opposed by lawmakers
loyal to opposition cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The deal is expected
to be approved by Iraq's three-member presidential council. The
agreement would replace the U.N. mandate for the U.S. military presence
in Iraq. That mandate expires December 31.
The new security
agreement calls for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June
30, 2009, as an interim step. It also gives Iraq strict oversight over
some 150,000 U.S. forces in the country.
Earlier Saturday, a
rocket attack near a U.N. compound in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green
Zone killed at least two foreign workers and wounded at least 15 others.
U.N. statement said the two foreigners killed were working for a
catering company. The victims' nationalities were not immediately
The United Nations has had a limited presence in Iraq
since a suicide bomber struck the organization's Baghdad headquarters
five years ago. The blast killed 22 people, including top U.N. envoy
Sergio Viera de Mello.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.