[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website] on Thursday approved a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [draft text; CFR backgrounder] that sets a 2011 deadline for the withdraw of US troops but also passed an additional law calling for a national referendum on the pact in July 2009. The vote on the SOFA had been delayed several times while majority Shia and minority Sunni factions negotiated over the Sunni-favored referendum [JURIST report] and other provisions. The SOFA itself will take effect on January 1st, 2009, a day after the current UN mandate authorizing the US presence in Iraq expires. The International Herald Tribune has more. Aswat al-Iraq has local coverage (in English and Arabic).
The SOFA was approved [JURIST report] by the Iraq cabinet on November, 16 2008. In addition to the official deadlines for troop withdraw, it gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction [JURIST report] over American military personnel and eliminates immunity [JURIST report] for US defense contractors working within Iraq.