US Presence in Middle East Perilous

A0529204.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stressed that Iraq’s security must not be undermined to ensure protection for the occupying forces.

“The presence of the occupying forces in the region has created a very perilous situation affecting all regional countries and nations,” Rafsanjani, who now heads the Experts Assembly – a powerful clerical body – told the president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani, on Thursday.

Rafsanjani urged the Iraqis to stand united in order to guarantee the security of their country, adding any security agreement (between the US and Iraq) must cover all aspects of security in Iraq, press tv reported.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also told Barzani Thursday that the US seeks a security pact with Iraq in order to make certain of a long-term presence in the oil-rich country.

The US-proposed security deal, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) would provide permanent military bases for US soldiers in Iraq after their UN mandate expires in December 2008.

The controversial agreement gives legal basis to its military presence in the oil-rich country and grants immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts to US forces who commit crimes inside the agreed facilities and areas owned by the government of Iraq but used by US forces as of January 1, 2009.

The pact has sparked fierce opposition from the Iraqi people, clerics and deputies. The oppositions come as Iraq is under heavy pressure from the US to sign the deal.

Thousands of Iraqi protestors staged massive anti-US rallies in Baghdad on Saturday to protest the deal.

In a Tuesday cabinet meeting, Iraqi ministers also refused to support the latest draft of the deal and called for further amendments to the terms of the pact.

A majority of lawmakers have also taken the lead in active opposition. In addition to concerns over the immunity of US personnel, Iraqi deputies say they are worried about the lack of a guaranteed date for US forces to withdraw after their UN mandate expires in December 2008.

Washington, however, has warned Baghdad that it would face “dire consequences” if it rejects the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). There are even reports that the US assassinates Iraqi political figures who oppose signing the controversial SOFA with Washington.

Reports circulated by the local media claimed that US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte had even threatened to topple the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki if he refused to sign the deal.

The SOFA needs the approval of the Iraqi cabinet, parliament and the Presidency Council to be signed.

The Iraqi cabinet has asked the US to amend the latest draft of the deal. A majority of lawmakers from both Sunni and Shiite parties are also opposed to the deal.

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