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US security pact faces 'dangerous obstacles', says Iraq's PM

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-10

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki warned on Wednesday that the security pact with the US was facing "serious and dangerous obstacles." The contention stems from a UN mandate that provides legal immunity to US forces serving in Iraq.


Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday warned that the contentious security pact with the United States was facing "serious and dangerous obstacles."
  
"There is very serious and dangerous obstacles to the deal," Maliki told a group of Iraqi television journalists.
  
"They (US negotiators) requested 10 to 14 days to respond to our demands and the time is over now. American negotiators have not responded to our proposals.
  
"If they implement our demand quickly, the deal will be signed soon, but if they refuse our demands, it will face obstacles and could lead to new negotiations."
  
Washington and Baghdad are currently negotiating a security pact that would decide the future of US forces in Iraq after the present UN mandate expires at the end of this year.
  
The UN mandate currently acts as the legal framework for the presence of foreign forces in the violence-wracked country.
  
Iraqi negotiators have demanded that American soldiers should be subjected to Iraqi laws if they commit "grave and intentional mistakes," a demand which the American negotiators have to respond to.
  
US soldiers currently are immune from Iraqi laws.
  
"There is still a dispute over the issue of immunity to American soldiers," Maliki said.
  
"The present demands of Iraq are related to the country's sovereignty. Iraqis have shown flexibility and we hope that the American side shows more flexibility."
  
Maliki told journalists that both sides have agreed "that by December 2011 all American troops will leave Iraqi soil."
  
"The Americans have agreed on this. At the beginning, we demanded that they leave by 2010, but they (Americans) asked to leave by 2011."
  
The other sticking points that are yet to be resolved between Washington and Baghdad are the command of military operations in Iraq from next year and the right of US forces to detain Iraqi citizens.
  
US embassy officials in Baghdad were not immediately available for comment.
  
But last week embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh told AFP that the negotiations were ongoing and the "deal is not done until it is done."
  
Maliki, however, said the two sides had agreed that foreign private security contractors working in Iraq would be subjected to Iraqi laws from January 1, 2009.
  
The presence of foreign private security contractors has been extremely controversial after some of them were accused of killing civilians.
  
Last September 16, guards belonging to Blackwater security company shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians while escorting an American diplomatic convoy through Baghdad. The firm says its guards were acting in self-defence.
  
Despite strong opposition from Iraqis, the US Department of State earlier this year renewed a contract with Blackwater to protect American officials in Iraq.
  
Foreign security companies are currently not subject to Iraq law, but they are not governed by US military tribunals either, effectively allowing them to operate with impunity.
 

Date created : 2008-09-17

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