Middle East News
Opposition grows among Iraqi clerics on US troop agreement (Roundup)
Oct 17, 2008, 16:47 GMT
Baghdad - Opposition grew on Friday among Iraqi religious leaders about a draft agreement worked out between the US and Iraqi governments on the status of US forces in Iraq.
'The Shiite clergy is very worried about this security agreement with the USA,' said Imam Sadr Eddin al-Qabanji, a confidant of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, speaking before a crowd of hundreds in Najaf.
Meanwhile, a Sunni council of religious leaders issued a fatwa (religious judgement), explaining why the agreement must be rejected. Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also voiced opposition to the proposal.
Separately, senior Sadrist officials said that final preparations are underway for conducting a massive demonstration on Saturday. The demonstration would call for the withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq and denounce the US security agreement.
Instructions were made to demonstrators that it would be necessary to raise Iraqi flags and chant slogans that reject the occupation and express the unity of Iraq's people and land,' Sayed Hazem al-Aaraji, a senior figure in the Sadrist movement told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.
Demonstrators have already started to arrive in Baghdad to participate in the demonstration, al-Aaraji added.
Few details of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) have been released, both sides say, because negotiations are ongoing. The plan is to specify the legal status of US forces in Iraq.
Topics to be decided in the agreement include: how long the US military can hold prisoners without charging them; whether the Iraqi government should be informed in advance of operations; and whether US soldiers should be subject to US or Iraqi criminal law.
Clerics are especially focused on the question of which nation's courts would have jurisdiction on US troops. Clerics have argued that the agreement should not be decided solely by Iraq's legislature, but put before its citizens in a referendum.
According to reports, the proposed agreement would only allow US soldiers to appear before Iraqi courts for charges not specifically linked to a military operation. Additionally, it would specify that US troops would leave Iraq in 2011, if the security situation allows.
It remained unclear Friday if there was enough support in the Iraqi parliament to approve the agreement.
Meanwhile, US forces announced Friday the death of one soldier in Diyala province, 57 kilometres north-east of Baghdad in a suspected mortar attack. His death brings the number of US soldiers who died in October to nine.
In the city of Mosul, one Iraqi soldier died and another three soldiers were injured in a blast that struck their patrol in al-Karama district east of the city. Mosul is located 405 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Also on Friday an explosion killed one Iraqi civilian and injured another four in a Shiite mosque in northeastern Baghdad. The blast occurred as worshippers were walking out of the mosque, a police source told VOI.