BAGHDAD – Iraq wants to remove any possibility that U.S. troops could remain after 2011 from a proposed security agreement now under negotiation, a Shiite lawmaker close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday.
The current draft would have U.S. soldiers leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, unless the government asks them to stay to help with training or other missions.
But Ali al-Adeeb, a member of the prime minister's inner circle, said the government wants that possibility removed.
"The Iraqi side wants to remove any mention of a possible extension of U.S. troops, fearing that the existing clause might be subjected to misinterpretation or could bear different interpretation because Multinational Forces might demand for extension depending on their evaluation of the security forces or the incomplete readiness of the Iraqi forces," al-Adeeb told The Associated Press.
He also said the Iraqis want a joint U.S.-Iraqi committee to decide whether U.S. soldiers accused of crimes off base were really on authorized missions.
The current draft also gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over U.S. troops accused of major crimes committed off post and off duty.
Those are among proposed changes which the Iraqis say must be made in the draft agreement before it can be approved by parliament in time for a Dec. 31 deadline when the U.N. mandate under which coalition forces here operates.
Without an agreement or a new U.N. mandate, the U.S. military would have to suspend all operations in Iraq. The Cabinet decided this week to ask the U.S. for changes in the draft before referring it to parliament.
"We are waiting for a response from the U.S. negotiators on how much they can accommodate," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Thursday on CNN. "I think both sides here have reached the moment of truth. The time window is closing, and a decision has to be made as soon as possible."
U.S. officials have urged the Iraqis to consider what could happen here if the U.S. suspends military operations.
Violence is down here sharply after the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the routing of Shiite militias in Baghdad and southern Iraq last spring. But the U.S. military also provides considerable help to Iraqi ministries in infrastructure and quality of life projects which would have to stop.
Despite the drop in violence, attacks are continuing, although at a lower level.
On Thursday, a car bomb exploded near a market in north Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five, police said.
The explosion took place about a half hour after a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol at an intersection in the Fudhailiya area in eastern Baghdad, wounding six people, including three policemen, officials said.
They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information to media.
Meanwhile, police raised the death toll from a bombing Wednesday evening in eastern Baghdad to six, with another 17 people wounded. The blast occurred when a roadside bomb planted near a stall selling ice cream exploded near a police patrol on Palestine Street.
First reports said two people were killed but police said Thursday there were six dead, all of them civilians.