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Iraqi Leaders Review Final Draft Of U.S. Pact

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has submitted a final draft of a security agreement with the United States to political leaders for review, after months of negotiations with Washington.

"The agreement on the temporary presence of troops and their withdrawal has been distributed today to the members of the political council for national security, which will meet on [October 17] to discuss the draft," al-Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.

"The government decided that the draft should take its constitutional path through the cabinet and parliament," he added. "It's the first step...for Iraqi politicians to discuss and to decide finally their stance on the agreement."

The remarks suggest Baghdad and Washington are close to finally unveiling details of the security pact, which they have been hammering out for months.

The bilateral pact will replace a UN Security Council resolution authorizing U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of this year.

The deal has been held up so far while the two sides discuss issues such as whether and under what circumstances U.S. troops can be tried in Iraqi court.

The political council for security includes leaders of Iraq's main parties, whom al-Maliki has pledged to consult before referring the pact to a vote by his cabinet.

Naseer al-Ani, chief of staff of President Jalal Talabani, said a copy of the draft would also be circulated to the cabinet later on October 15.

If the cabinet and the council approve the pact, the government has said it will submit it to parliament for a vote.