Senior Official: US Pressuring Iraq on Security Pact

A04855946.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The United States is putting pressure on Iraqis to accept a security pact that outlines deployment of US troops in Iraq, an influential Iranian cleric said on Friday, after Baghdad called for changes to the draft.

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.

“(An) issue of importance to us and the region is the pressure that the Americans are exerting on the Iraqis to impose a security pact on them,” said Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who now heads the Experts Assembly – a powerful clerical body – and the Expediency Council – a top decision-making body.

Baghdad has called for changes in what the US administration considered the “final draft” of the pact requiring US forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Tehran has long called for US forces to quit the region and Iraq, but Iranian officials have always stressed that the decision about SOFA is completely a domestic issue of the Iraqis.

“America is in very difficult situation in Iraq because of its aggressive arrogant spirit,” Rafsanjani said while addressing a large congregation of worshippers on Tehran University Campus on Friday.

“If it (the US) decides to leave, it would mean a defeat and would certainly be questioned by the American nation. If it should decide to stay, the Iraqi people would not want that,” he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said on Thursday that Washington sought to loot Iraq with the new security pact.

The proposed pact is also facing widespread opposition among Iraqi people and 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.

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