Iraq insists US troops leave urban areas by June 30

Morning Star Online, Tuesday 28 April 2009

THE Iraqi government insisted on Monday that all US troops must pull out of urban areas by June 30, as specified under a deal agreed between Baghdad and Washington in January.

Top US commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno has talked of possible “exceptions” to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in light of the spate of deadly suicide bombings that have rocked Baghdad and Mosul in recent weeks.

But Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari emphasised that US troops must leave all cities by then and could only return with the permission of the Iraqi government.

“The general position of the Iraq Defence Ministry is to adhere to the timings in the SOFA,” he said.

Since the SOFA went into effect at the beginning of this year, the US military is obliged to get the green light from the Iraqi government before mounting operations.

And it states that US soldiers are liable to face Iraqi justice if they commit crimes off base.

The SOFA faced its first major test on Sunday, when US troops staged a pre-dawn raid in Kut, killing two civilians and detaining six.

After local residents took to the streets in outrage, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki branded the raid a “crime” and a “violation of the security pact.”

The US military released the six detainees and apologised, but that did not placate Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Munim, who lost his wife and brother in the raid.

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