Iraq drafts law letting British troops stay past 2008-end

Iraq drafts law letting British troops stay past 2008-end

Baghdad: The Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday drafted a law allowing troops from Britain, Australia and a few other countries to remain beyond the end of the year, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The law will cover the temporary presence in Iraq of the troops once a United Nations mandate expires next year, while paving the way for their withdrawal nearly six years after the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

The agreement with Britain, Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or Nato, appeared to be similar to a recently approved US-Iraq security pact that allows US troops to remain in the country for three more years. It was not immediately clear under what time frame the other troops would be required to withdraw.

“The cabinet approved a Bill for the withdrawal of the UK and northern Ireland, Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador and Nato, and to organize their activities during their temporary presence in Iraq," Dabbagh said in a statement issued by his office.

The law governing the 4,100 British troops still in Iraq and smaller numbers from the other countries will need to be approved by the Iraqi parliament before the end of the year.

The US-Iraq security pact covering the far larger US force of 140,000 troops was fiercely opposed by some parliamentary blocs and was only passed after the Shi’ite-led coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to subject it to a referendum next year. Reuters