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Iraq cabinet approves US status of forces agreement

[JURIST] The Iraqi cabinet voted Sunday in an emergency session to approve a final draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [CFR materials] between the US and Iraq. The SOFA, which determines the relationship between Iraqi, American and Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) [official website] forces in the country, requires US and MNF-I forces to exit Iraqi cities by June 30 [UPI report], and calls for the removal of all combat troops by 2011 unless the Iraqi government requests otherwise. This extends the deadline for US troops to remain in Iraq for three years, as the UN mandate expires in December [UN press release]. The SOFA will also define the ongoing relationship between US and MNF-I forces and Iraqi civilian institutions, including the national police service and the Iraqi justice system. In particular, it gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel [JURIST report] for crimes committed off base when the troops are not on an authorized mission. The SOFA must now go before the Iraq parliament for a final vote. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Last week, Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi [personal website, in Arabic], one of two Iraqi vice presidents, called for a national referendum [JURIST report] on any proposed SOFA. The agreement has been delayed [JURIST report] by months of negotiation, and must still be approved by lawmakers in both countries.

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