Iraq Unhappy with Odierno’s Iran Bribe Comments

A00138735.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iraq criticized as “inappropriate” on Wednesday comments by US commander General Raymond Odierno accusing Iran of trying to bribe Iraqi MPs to derail a planned military pact with Washington.

“The Iraqi government expresses its deep concern after the statements attributed to General Raymond Odierno,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, describing the remarks as “inappropriate.”

“These kind of remarks are likely to tarnish the good relations between Iraq and the forces of the international coalition.”

Odierno had said in an interview published by the Washington Post on Monday that Iran was working publicly and covertly to undermine the planned Status of Forces Agreement between Baghdad and Washington that would provide the legal basis for a US troop presence beyond this year.

“Clearly, this is one they’re having a ‘full court press’ on to try to ensure there’s never any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq,” the paper quoted Odierno as saying, using a basketball expression.

“We know that there are many relationships with people here for many years going back to when Saddam (Hussein) was in charge, and I think they’re utilizing those contacts to attempt to influence the outcome of the potential vote in the Council of Representatives (parliament),” the general added.

“There are many intelligence reports” that suggest Iranians are “coming in to pay off people to vote against it,” he said, while acknowledging that he had no definitive proof.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll said on Wednesday that Odierno’s comment were not meant to infer that any Iraqi officials had accepted bribes.

“The Council of Representative members work hard to represent and serve the Iraqi people performing an honorable, critical role in building the new Iraq,” he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s spokesman Yasin Majeed said on Wednesday that top officials were considering a new draft of the proposed Status of Forces Agreement with a view to forwarding it to parliament.

But he added that the discussions were likely to continue into the first half of next week and that further changes were likely. “We cannot say it is a final draft,” he said.

The US is in talks with Iraqi officials to get them to sign a provocative security agreement which secures long-term US presence in Iraq.

If ratified by the Iraqi government, the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) would also grant US forces in Iraq immunity from prosecution.

It also gives the occupation forces a free rein to stage military operations wherever and whenever they deem necessary, without consulting the Iraqi government.

The proposed pact is also facing widespread opposition among Iraqi politicians.

Many fear Washington has plans to keep permanent bases, despite a denial of any such plan written into the proposal. Iraqis say the drafts submitted by the Americans thus far would infringe on Iraq’s sovereignty by giving US forces too much freedom to operate.

The security pact also faces strong criticism from members of al-Maliki’s own coalition. Two Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations have warned that a deal is unlikely to be reached before the end of President Bush’s term in January unless Washington backs off some demands seen as giving American forces too much freedom to operate in Iraq and infringing on Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq’s parliament must approve the deal, and the two officials said opposition in the legislature was so widespread that it stood no chance of winning approval without significant changes in the US position. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations.

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