Τετάρτη, 19 Νοεμβρίου 2008

Maliki defends pact with U.S.

Iraqi men watch a televised address by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki at a cafe in central Baghdad on Tuesday
For the first time since his government approved a three-year security agreement with the United States, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki publicly defended the pact in a televised address on Tuesday night, reassuring Iraqis that representatives from all sects had been involved in the negotiating process and that the agreement was the best option available for Iraq.The 12-minute speech came 6 days before Parliament is scheduled to vote on the agreement, which governs the presence of American troops in Iraq for the next three years.In a separate action on Tuesday, the Iraqi cabinet announced that it had set a firm date, January 31, for elections in all provinces except the three that make up Kurdistan and the province of Tamin, which includes the ethnically charged city of Kirkuk.In his address, Maliki did not try to play down the significant political and sectarian differences that continue to threaten the pact. "I'd like to say candidly we have our own assessments, but at the same time this is a strong beginning to get back the full sovereignty of Iraq in three years," he said.He described the contents of the agreement in broad terms and said, "no detainees anymore, no detention centers anymore, or American prisons for Iraqis, no searches or raids of buildings or houses, until there is an Iraqi judicial warrant and it is fully coordinated with the Iraqi government."Maliki also attacked opponents of the pact for suggesting over the past few days that the bargaining had gone on in secret, an apparent response to some Sunni politicians who said they were surprised by the contents of the agreement."I feel sad that the opponents or even those who agreed with the pact released statements that are far away from reality," he said. "Unfortunately, some of them accuse us of negotiating behind closed doors without consulting anyone, or of taking instructions from the other side."In a culture deeply imbued with conspiracy, Maliki repeatedly vowed that there were no secret side agreements to the pact, the text of which was published in local newspapers on Tuesday.Supporters of the agreement, including most Shiite and Kurdish legislators, are in a delicate position. While they say that they have the majority needed to succeed in Parliament, a simple mathematical victory is not enough; all acknowledge the need for widespread backing.In a statement released on Tuesday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, who has advocated national unity consistently since the 2003 invasion, reiterated his insistence that the agreement draw support across sectarian lines.
"Any agreement that doesn't win national consensus," the statement read, "will not be acceptable and will be a reason for more suffering for Iraqis." Shiite lawmakers said that the ayatollah told them on Saturday that he found the final draft of the pact satisfactory, if not ideal, but that his condition of national consent must be met.Addressing these concerns, Maliki argued that "the consensus vote in the cabinet on the withdrawal of the forces represents a unified voice."

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