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Thanksgiving 2008


Thursday, November 27, 2008
21:58 Mecca time, 18:58 GMT

Iraq parliament approves US pact

The pact will govern some 150,000 US soldiers stationed in 400 bases across Iraq. Iraq's parliament has approved a security pact that allows US troops to stay in Iraq for three more years. The pact was approved by 144 members of the 198 who attended the session of the 275-member assembly, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the parliament speaker, said on Thursday. Under the deal, US forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 and leave the entire country by January 1, 2012. 

It is effectively a coming-of-age for the Iraqi government, which drove a hard bargain with Washington, securing a number of concessions - including a hard timeline for withdrawal - over more than 11 months of tough negotiations.

Iraq has also won the right to search US military cargo and the right to try US soldiers for crimes committed while they are off their bases and off-duty. The agreement also requires that US troops obtain Iraqi permission for all military operations and that they hand over the files of all detainees in US custody to the Iraqi authorities, who will decide their fate. The pact also forbids US troops from using Iraq as a launch-pad or transit point for attacking another country, which may reassure Syria and Iran, according to the official Arabic version of the pact.

The pact was made possible in part by dramatic improvements in security over the past year, with US and Iraqi forces largely containing the violence and the chaos that erupted in the wake of  the 2003 US-led invasion and Saddam's ouster.

And, a day-after-Thanksgiving update:

Japan has announced that it will end its air support for US-led coalition forces in Iraq by the end of the year because the mission had achieved its goal.

Taro Aso, the prime minister, said the national security council issued the order, which was anticipated for months, because there was progress in Iraq's security situation and its move towards democracy.

"Iraq has demonstrated a steady effort to install a democratic government and the country's security has improved while the Iraqi people are now making their own effort to rebuild their country," he said in a statement.