Mon, Dec 22, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Iraqi MPs mixed on non-US foreign forces bill

AFP , BAGHDAD

The Iraqi special forces ‘‘Scorpions’’ unit trains under the supervision of US special forces in Hillah, Iraq, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Confusion reigned in the Iraqi parliament on Saturday over whether a vote had taken place on the presence of non-US foreign troops when a UN mandate expires on Dec. 31.

“We are waiting for the speaker of parliament to clarify on Sunday what exactly MPs [members of parliament] voted on today. The situation is confused,” Shiite MP Sami al-Askari, who is close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told reporters.

A first reading of a bill on Wednesday was interrupted by uproar in the legislature in the aftermath of the protest by an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at visiting US President George W. Bush on Dec. 21.

Speaker of parliament Mahmud Mashhadani said during Wednesday’s row that he was resigning but later retracted it.

When discussion of the draft law resumed on Saturday, some MPs thought they had voted against the law on the withdrawal of non-US forces between now and July next year, while others thought the vote was to invalidate Wednesday’s rowdy session.

Sheikh Jamal al-Butikh, who heads the Iraqi National List in the 275-seat parliament, said MPs had voted on Saturday to annul the session earlier in the week.

He said the move was justified, given the outburst by the speaker.

Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman disagreed, saying: “Not at all. The majority voted against this bill, and the speaker must now send the text back to the government so it can be amended before being presented to parliament again at the start of the new year.”

The UN mandate under which foreign troops operate in Iraq ends on Dec. 31, and a law must be passed to legalize their presence beyond that date.

The US, which supplies 95 percent of the foreign troops in Iraq, has signed a separate security accord with the Baghdad government, under which its forces would not withdraw fully from the country until the end of 2011.

Britain has the second largest contingent of troops in the country at 4,100.

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