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Iraq offers options for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011 - 02:42

Oct. 9 - Iraq says U.S. can keep troops as trainers beyond 2011 despite a decision to reject immunity for any American soldiers Deborah Lutterbeck reports

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says Washington still has options to keep U.S troops in Iraq as trainers beyond a 2011 withdrawal date despite a decision by the country's leaders to reject immunity for any American soldiers. Maliki told Reuters that U.S. troops could be attached to the existing U.S. embassy, or join a broader NATO training mission. SOUNDBITE: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, saying: (Arabic): "Since the need for training exists and all the political blocks acknowledge that, we have a number of choices. Now there is dialogue between us and the Americans including a proposal for the U.S. troops to be part of the NATO as we have an agreement with NATO. The parliament is currently discussing a law that could allow U.S. experts and trainers to stay as part of 300-strong NATO training mission." Last week Iraq's leadership agreed that U.S. troops can stay on for training, but without the legal protections demanded by Washington as part of any accord to keep American military in Iraq . SOUNDBITE: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, saying: (Arabic): "We are heading toward securing trainers and experts for the American weapons we purchased, but without immunity and without going to parliament because we know and we said that earlier to the Americans that if it goes to the parliament, it will not be approved." Washington had said no training deal could go ahead without U.S. troops receiving similar legal protections they have under the current agreement, which essentially keeps troops under U.S. jurisdiction for certain crimes committed on duty or on base. After ending combat operations last year, the last 44,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year, handing over bases to Iraqi forces when a security pact expires. Violence has fallen sharply since the height of sectarian bloodletting in 2006-2007 when Shi'ite-Sunni attacks killed thousands. But a stubborn Islamist insurgency tied to al-Qaeda and radical Shi'ite militias still carry out daily attacks. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters

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Iraq offers options for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011 - 02:42