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Iraq parliament rejects troop withdrawal agreement for non-US forces

[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website] Saturday voted down a status of forces draft law which would have permitted 6,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Australia, Romania, El Salvador, and Estonia to remain in the country after the current UN mandate [UN press release] authorizing the multi-national force in Iraq expires on December 31, 2008. Iraqi members of parliament voted 80 to 68 to defeat the bill [BBC report], which was approved by the cabinet [JURIST report] last week. The bill was sent back to the cabinet for amendment, and a second vote is expected early next week. The UK Ministry of Defence [official website], which oversees 4,100 troops in Iraq, said that it will work with the government of Iraq [The Independent report] to come up with "other options" to ensure the legality of their continued military operations in Iraq. Other options could include bi-lateral agreements between Iraq and coalition countries.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi presidential council approved [JURIST report] a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF; CFR backgrounder] that sets a 2011 deadline for the withdraw of US troops but also approved an additional law calling for a national referendum on the pact in July 2009. The approval of the council, comprising President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] and two vice presidents, was the final step required before the SOFA can go into effect on January 1, 2009, a day after the current UN Mandate authorizing the US presence in Iraq expires. The SOFA was approved by the Iraq cabinet and the Iraq parliament [JURIST reports] in November. In addition to the official deadlines for troop withdraw, it gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel and eliminates immunity [JURIST reports] for US defense contractors working within Iraq.

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