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Iraqi Parliament Passes U.S. Security Pact

Iraqis watch the vote on television
Iraq's parliament has approved a security pact with the United States that paves the way for a complete U.S. troops withdrawal within the next three years.

The vote on the controversial Iraqi-U.S. security pact had been delayed due to bitter, sectarian-based infighting between political factions in parliament.

But today, it sailed through the Iraqi legislature by a comfortable majority.

Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said lawmakers overwhelming approved the agreement by a show of hands.

"The by-law approving the pact has been passed by a majority of 144 votes. Now those who voted against: there are 35. The session is adjourned until December 13, 2008," al-Mashhadani said.

It must now be ratified by the Presidential Council, which is expected to endorse it.

The deal rules that U.S. troops will have to pull out of Iraqi cities by the middle of next year and leave the country entirely by the end of 2011 -- almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Baghdad will also have strict oversight over U.S. troops, with all military operations now approved by a joint U.S.-Iraqi committee.

The pact, which supporters say brings in sight full sovereignty for Iraq, was backed by the ruling coalition's Shi'ite and Kurdish blocs.

Sunni Arab lawmakers gave their approval on the condition that a national referendum on the pact be held by July 30.

But a number of deputies remain fiercely opposed to allowing U.S. troops to stay three more years in the country.

A bloc of 30 lawmakers loyal to anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chanted protests and held banners at today's session.

Under the deal, all U.S. military bases are to be turned over to Iraq following the U.S. withdrawal.

It will also ban the United States, which currently holds some 17,000 detainees in Iraq, to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge.

The pact is valid for three years, but either party can terminate it with one year's notice.

U.S. President George W. Bush on November 27 congratulated the Iraqi government on passing the pact.

Compiled from agency reports