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Iraq presidential council approves US status of forces agreement

[JURIST] The Iraqi presidential council 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 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 [UN press release] authorizing the US presence in Iraq expires.

The SOFA was approved by the Iraq cabinet in November, and then by the Iraq parliament [JURIST reports] last week. 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.

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