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Iraqis attach strings to troop withdrawal pact

BAGHDAD — Sunni Muslim lawmakers appeared to have won demands Wednesday for a referendum that could let the public throw out a pact allowing U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for three more years.

The referendum was part of a package of legislation that Sunni legislators demanded be tied to the pact, known as the Status of Forces Agreement, which sets Dec. 31, 2011, as the date for American forces to leave Iraq.

Parliament had planned to vote on the accord Wednesday but delayed the vote at least a day as the ruling Shiite and Kurdish coalition struggled to win support from Sunni parties.

The referendum issue appeared to have been resolved to the Sunnis' satisfaction after last-minute negotiations, said Iraqi lawmakers from across the political spectrum Wednesday.

"Regarding the referendum, it is included in the legislation," said Ridha Jawad Taqi, a lawmaker from the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite bloc. Kurdish lawmaker Alla Talabani said the Kurdish alliance also had come to support the Sunnis' demand for the public vote.

But wrinkles were added as National Dialogue Front, a mainly Sunni slate with 20 seats, sought more concessions. They included the elimination of a special tribunal that prosecutes members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime for crimes committed on the regime's behalf and the scrapping of a law limiting opportunities for former high-ranking members of Hussein's Baath Party.

The pact probably could pass the 275-seat Parliament. However, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has made clear that he wants broad-based support for the pact.

Potential female bombers surrender

Eighteen young women purportedly belonging to a suicide bombing network in northern Iraq surrendered to U.S. forces on Wednesday, a top U.S. commander said. Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, who leads U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said the women turned themselves in after a local cleric and their families persuaded them that suicide attacks violate Islamic tenets. U.S. military figures show 31 attacks by 35 female suicide bombers so far this year, compared with eight in 2007.

Mass grave found: The U.S. military said that a mass grave containing 23 bodies was found Wednesday in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad and that the bodies in the grave appear to have been dead for 1 ½ years. At that time, violence in the area was intense. The military said Iraqi police will hand over the remains of the dead to their families for proper burial.

Associated Press

Iraqis attach strings to troop withdrawal pact 11/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:29am]
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