U.S. officials say U.S. troops in Iraq will continue to have immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts until an elected government is in place.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says the Bush administration has completed an order renewing immunity from Iraqi prosecution for U.S. and other coalition troops ahead of next week's handover of power to Iraq's interim government.
Mr. Armitage testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee: "It is finished today; it has gone out to Baghdad, sir," he said.
Mr. Armitage said the United States wants to make sure the new Iraqi government sees the order and is not opposed to it. Washington held extensive discussions with the interim Iraqi government before completing the order.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the order could not be withdrawn by the interim government. That power, he said, would be held by an elected Iraqi government.
?My understanding of this issue is the Coalition Provisional Authority orders cannot be repealed or modified until Iraq's permanent government is in place to enact legislation. So they stay effective through that period,? general Myers said.
Iraqi elections are expected to be held in December or January.
The issue of immunity for U.S. troops is a controversial one following the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Some U.S. troops face charges by the U.S. military in connection with the scandal.
Some 140,000 U.S. troops are serving in Iraq, along with 25,000 other foreign troops.