Senior Cleric Issues Decree against US-Iraq Security Pact

A05031527.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- An influential Iraqi cleric living in Iran has issued a fatwa – or a religious decree – against a US-Iraqi security pact that would keep American troops in Iraq for three more years.

The Iranian-born Ayatollah Kazim al-Hosseini al-Haeri called the proposed agreement “haram” – which in Arabic means “forbidden” by Islam – and stressed that it’s “a sin God won’t forgive.”

The fatwa was posted on al-Haeri’s web site Wednesday. The cleric said the US is pressuring the Iraqi government to approve the deal that brings “humiliation and scarifies Iraq’s national sovereignty.”

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 people and politicians. Around half a million of Iraqis thronged the streets of Baghdad during the weekend in opposition to the measure.

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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