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Iraqi Parliament Wrestles With British Military Agreement

British Royal Marines conduct operations on waterways in the Al-Basrah region in 2007.
BAGHDAD -- Various factions in the Iraqi parliament are working to pass a security agreement with Britain after the Sadrist bloc foiled a vote on the agreement, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Members of the Sadrist bloc walked out of the July 13 session, thus denying parliament the quorum needed to vote.

The agreement would allow 100 British military experts and five boats to stay in Basra for one year to train the Iraqi Navy and help protect Iraq's harbors and sea terminals until Iraqi forces can assume responsibility.

Falah Hassan Shanshal, a member of the Sadrist bloc, told RFI that the Sadrists reject the proposed agreement "because it legitimizes the presence of foreign forces on Iraqi soil and in Iraqi territorial waters."

Yunadim Kanna, the deputy chairman of the parliament's economic committee, told RFI that "more than two-thirds of Iraq's oil is exported from the Basra seaport, where the British are training the Iraqi Navy."

He added that until the Iraqi forces are able to operate on their own, British support in Iraqi waters will be necessary.

Hassan Degan, a member of the parliament's security and defense committee from the Sunni Accordance Front, told RFI that Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir Muhammad Jassim al-Ubaidi, who negotiated the agreement with the British, said that Iraqi forces still need the help of foreign troops.

Degan stressed that "in view of this reality, Iraq has no choice but to accept this one-year agreement to secure Iraqi territorial waters."