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Iraqi Prime Minister Discusses US-Iraqi Security Agreement


Luke_Wilbur
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Baghdad Al-Iraqiyah Television at 1617 GMT

 

Responding to a number of audience questions about the Iraqi-US security agreement under negation, Al-Maliki says: "I will begin talking about the security agreement and with the signing of the first paper, that is, the declaration of principles and broad lines, in August last year. When we reached negotiations and got closer to the 31 December 2008 expiration of the resolution extending the mandate of forces, the 31 December 2008 expiration of the resolution extending the mandate of forces, we felt there should be an alternative of cover for the presence of forces. They were present in accordance with Resolution 1770, which stemmed from previous resolutions like Resolution 1546 and others. According to the agreement reached in the declaration of principles, the Security Council will not extend the mandate of forces in Iraq for another year. This means Iraq does not want it to extend their mandate of our feeling the reasons which kept Iraq under Chapter VII and international sanctions are no longer in existence. There are no weapons or a country posing a threat to world peace." He adds that Iraq should restore the status which existed before 1991.

 

Continuing, he says: "The presence of forces should be under a certain cover. If the cover today is these international resolutions, what will the cover be after 31 December? It has to be the security agreement departure. Constitutionally, the government is responsible for negotiations and then comes parliment, which will ratify or not. The Presidency Council has the final word. It endorses what is ratified by the Council of Representatives. Because the issue is a serious national issue and the entire national front should be united, I told the brothers in the executive council of the Presidency Council that neither I nor the government is alone be held responsible for this issue because it is a serious one. The said this is the government's responsibility. We said true; but in handling such a serious issue, the government gives up much of its role in favor of having one national vison. We do not want to assume this serious and large responsibility alone. Agreement was reached and we met at the Political Council of National Security on the basis that the government will hold negotiations and the negotiating team will have people from the various affiliations and trends. They, of course, work on a professional basis and not the quota system. The Prime Minister supervises the team but final word is for the Political Council for National Security and then the Council of Representatives, which represents the will of the People and can accept or reject this agreement. Things really went in this direction."

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Al-Maliki adds: "The negotiating team came up with ideas, som of which were accepted while others were rejected. Therefore, we had to finalize our Iraqi ideas. We spent the first round discussing the other side's ideas and then drew up the Iraqi ideas or demands. We presented the Iraqi draft, which we think represents our ideas and demands and where we stand. Dialogue began on these ideas once again. The negotiating tem worked hard and managed to reduce the ceiling of demands., contradictions, and differences to the largest possible extent. Things stopped at specific points beyond the ability of the negotiating team. Therefore , they wrote a letter saying the stopping points needed a political decision. Actually, I am not a negotiator, but I follow up the work done by the team. Also when this point was reached, the other side said they wanted to negotiate with the Prime Minister. Therefore, I turned into a negotiator although I was not so and only followed up things and served as a link between the negotiators and the Presidency Council and the Political Council for National Security. This is the time when they said the negotiating delegation has changed. I had direct contacts with President George W. Bush, the US Secretary of State, and the negotiating team by telephone and closed circuit television."

 

He says: "THe negotiating team has not been changed and no order was issued to change it. Once the US replies to contentious issues are recieved, they will be referred to the negotiating team. If they are in harmony with our ideas and what we need, our team will sit with the US team to draft them in an agreement and then send it to the Council of Ministers and then to the Council of Representatives. If the US side rejects the Iraqi demands, the Iraqi tem will also receive the file and draw up the final draft that echoes our opinion and the opinion of the US side. We will then go to the Council of Ministers and the Council of Representatives. The final word will be for the Council of Representatives and not the government. When things reached specific points, dialogue stopped and then opened more than once. Finally, they asked for 10 to 14 days to review Iraqi demands in Washington. Time has expired and the US team has not yet returned with a response to the Iraqi demands. Therefore, we cannot say -- as you regrettably hear even from some government officials - that agreement has been reached and finalized and be signed soon. No, there are serious points at which we have stopped. We and they consider these points basic, if they respond to them with a yes, things will be done quickly. If they respond to them with a no, there will be a problem and we will end up in other attemps which they sometimes call Plan B while we call them Plan C. What is important is the alternative. The US has thus far not responded to questions on the contentious issues. I will sum up these issues to you. Some of them are related to formulation issues because agreements must be clear and specific and there should be no general phrases that are open to different interpretations."

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Continuing, he says: "Other points are related to specific issues. Regrettably, I hear some government officials, who are unacquainted with what is going on and who are not members of the negotiating team, say there is no final date for the withdrawal of forces although this is one of the most important points on which we have stopped and with the US side has agreed. It is 31 December 2011 when the presence of any US soldier in Iraq will end. If the Iraqi Government at that time sees a need, it will agree on issues pertaining to training or technical issues related to airspace and other such things. Yes, the final date for the presence of forces is one of the basic points. We frankly told them this and said this for us is popular and official demand. It is our right as well as the right of every citizen in any country not to see foreign international forces on his land. Out of our love for our country and homeland, we see a need to conclude a security agreement to rid of Chapter VII and international sanctions and finish formation of our military and security demands. Out of love for our country and out of our feeling of the importance of national interest, we are heading toward and agreement that can fulfill these demands. Therefore, the agreement we need and we are talking about must guarantee these Iraqi demands, including the removal of Iraq's name from under Chaper VII and protection of Iraq against any foreign aggression. There should be commitment that the US forces will not raid houses or arrest people except with the approval of the Iraqi Government through a committee and agreed mechanisms as stated in the agreement."

 

Al-Maliki adds: "The presence of any US soldier or US camp in cities and villages should end on 30 June 2009. Camps will moved outside cities. Morevoer, the extremely important central issue is the issue of immunity, which is called in the agreement the legal jurisdiction. This is the main contentious issue. THe US says its troops do not fall under the legal jurisdiction of any of the countries in they are present. They say they will prosecute any US soldier who misbehaves or commits a crime in accordance with US judiciary and the not the country's judiciary. We reject this and this issue is the main contentious point. They are ready to accept and reach agreement on other points. This is the main point that remains to be solved by the Iraqi and US Governments. The US side has legal jurisdiction over it troops and civil American -- and not Iraqi -- contractors in their headquarters and camps. Security and protection firms do not enjoy immunity; they are subject to Iraqi law. They can be authorized or prevented so that the harm done to citizens as happened in the Al-Nusur Square and Airport Road will not be repeated."

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He then says: "With regard to th issue of arrests, the US forces will not keep detainees after 31 January as is the case now. If an Iraqi is detained during opertations, he should be handed over to the Iraqi side within 24 hours. They said any American detained by Iraq should be handed over to them immediately. We said either all should be handled over immediately or within 24 hours. These are points on which agreement can be reached. They are flexible and ready for that. Perhaps one of the two most important points is deciding the final date. Actually, the final date was the end of 2010 and the period between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they asked for a change in date due to political circumstances related to the domestic situation in the US, so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal, but the end of 2011 as a final date. Agreement has been reached on this issue. They are willing to respond positively, because they too are facing a critical situation.

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He then says: "What will happen if we reach November 31 and no agreement is signed? We will certainly go to the Security Council. We will not at all request an extension of the current situation." He mentions the dispute between Russia and the US over the issue of Georgia and says: "Russia will certainly not agree to extend the resolution in this manner. If we request an extension, we will do so according to our own conditions. We will demand controls for the movement of forces. The US will reject this and veto." He adds that if this happens "US troops will be in an embarassing situation with no legal cover by December 31. Therefore, they will have to withdrawal immediately from Iraq or stay in violation of the constitution and this is not possible because it violates international law. This will be embarassing to them and us. The two sides feel the need to reach an agreement should have these controls, restrictions, and mechanisms. This is how things have ended thus far. We now await an answer to these demands." He then says he hopes the US will show "flexibility" as "the Iraqi side has shown the required flexibility to agree and then see what the Council of Representatives will say.

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