Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Iraq to negotiate US training mission

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (R) meets US Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, during Mullen's visit to Baghdad August 1, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Iraqi officials say they will discuss with the US a training mission in the country beyond the 2011 deadline in spite of public opposition to the move.

Senior Iraqi politicians have agreed to allow Baghdad to negotiate with the Obama administration on a military training mission in Iraq after the year-end US troops withdrawal deadline, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari said on Tuesday, AFP reported.

"The political blocs have agreed to let the government start negotiations with the American side only on the issue of training," Zibari said, following an hours-long meeting of Iraqi political leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, behind closed doors.

"This is a declaration of intent to let the government start the negotiations," Zibari pointed out, adding there were yet "no details about the numbers or about new agreements."

The move, which is opposed by the Iraqi people, comes after a visit to Baghdad by the outgoing Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who has urged the al-Maliki government to make a decision whether it wants an extended presence of American forces in Iraq.

Mullen also stressed that any agreement on the extension of US military presence in Iraq would require parliamentary vote granting American soldiers immunity from legal prosecution.

However, Iraqi authorities have indicated they prefer civilian trainers rather than military forces, dismissing the idea of legal immunity for US troops.

Around 47,000 American soldiers are now stationed in Iraq, all of whom must leave the country by the end of 2011 under the terms of a 2008 bilateral security pact between Washington and Baghdad.

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