BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's government has authorized Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to submit to Washington amendments to a draft security agreement with the United States, an Iraqi government spokesman said Tuesday.
Students protest the status-of-forces agreement Tuesday at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University.
Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government approved several amendments that were "necessary, essential and appropriate" to the draft status-of-forces agreement, which would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq after the United Nations mandate on their presence expires at the end of this year.
"The Iraqi government authorizes the prime minister to bring up these amendments to the U.S. side in order to reach a draft agreement that will preserve the fundamental principles and the sovereignty of Iraq and its high interests," al-Dabbagh said.
It is unclear when al-Maliki will submit the changes to the draft document. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said that there was "great reluctance" to make any more changes to the agreement.
However, senior U.S. officials -- speaking under the condition of anonymity -- are not ruling out possibly renegotiating parts of the deal with Iraq if the country's parliament does not approve it.
The most vocal opponent of the draft security deal in Iraq has been the political party of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which opposes any U.S. military presence in Iraq.
U.S. military helicopters Tuesday flew over Baghdad's Mustansiriya University, where hundreds of students took part in a demonstration organized by the Sadr movement against the status-of-forces deal.
"We are against this agreement between the Iraqi government and between the American government because it is against Iraqi sovereignty," said law student Ahmed Fadhil Abbas, one of the demonstrators.
Fellow demonstrator and law student Hisham Mohammed said the students plan to organize a sit-in and a strike across universities in Iraq to protest the agreement.
The draft status-of-forces agreement, according to a copy obtained by CNN, calls for U.S. combat troops to be out of Iraqi cities and villages by July 30, 2009, and out of the country entirely by December 31, 2011. The agreement allows for an earlier withdrawal or an extension of the U.S. forces' stay in Iraq, by agreement of both parties.
It also allows the Iraqi government to ask "the United States government to leave certain forces for training and for support purposes for the Iraqi forces."
Legal jurisdiction over U.S. forces in Iraq has been a sticking point in the negotiation, with the U.S. side preferring that its troops and contractors remain immune from Iraqi law.
Baghdad had sought the power to arrest and try Americans accused of crimes not related to official military operations, plus jurisdiction over troops and contractors who commit major crimes in the course of their duties.
Under the draft agreement, U.S. forces or contractors who commit "major and premeditated murders" while off duty and outside U.S. facilities would fall under Iraqi jurisdiction, according to the copy obtained by CNN.
All other crimes -- and murders committed inside U.S. facilities or by on-duty forces -- would fall under American jurisdiction, the agreement says.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|