Iran Reiterates Call for Iraq’s Full Sovereignty

A05031522.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran on Monday expressed full support for the sovereignty of Iraq and its territorial integrity as Iraqi lawmakers vet the security agreement with Washington.

Iraqi lawmakers Monday weighed in on the Status of Forces Agreement, a bilateral pact set to replace the expiring UN mandate for Iraq. Despite positive statements from US officials, several Iraqi leaders expressed doubt over its movement through Parliament.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said Tehran is a steadfast supporter of the democratic process in Iraq and respects its complete independence as a free nation.

Tehran noted several Iraqi lawmakers have expressed their displeasure with the agreement but added it would respect the decision of the Iraqi people and its religious leaders.

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.

Tehran is concerned that the yet-not-concluded security deal could lead to establishment of permanent US bases in the neighboring country.

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

Around half a million of supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr 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.

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