Iraq demands official apology for U.S. raid

* Iraq demands official apology

* Fallout from raid poses major test

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has asked General Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, for an official apology for a U.S. raid this week that killed two people and kicked off a tide of condemnation, an official said on Tuesday.

“The prime minister sent a letter to the commander of multinational forces in Iraq condemning this act. He asked for an official apology and asked that such acts not be repeated,” said Major General Qassim Moussawi, Baghdad security spokesman.

The fallout from the raid early on Sunday in the southern city of Kut, which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki labeled a “crime,” poses the first major test to a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that sets the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by 2012.

Maliki, an increasingly assertive leader as his popularity grows at home and U.S. influence in Iraq diminishes, also said those responsible for the raid should be sent to court -- the first such demand since the pact took effect in January.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the cabinet had discussed on Tuesday the raid that led to the killing of two “innocent citizens.”

U.S. officials said the raid, targeting Iranian-backed Shi’ite militants, had Iraqi approval. Six people were arrested in the night-time operation but later released.

They said the man killed was considered a threat because he was carrying a weapon and that the woman moved into the line of fire.


After the incident, Iraq detained two military commanders for authorizing the raid, the Defense Ministry said.

The cabinet called for “compliance with the points of the pact and for legal proceedings regarding those responsible.”

While the rampant violence gripping Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has subsided, bloodshed has not ended.

Iraqi and U.S. security forces confront a weakened, yet still potent, insurgency while a rash of major recent bombings raises questions about whether Iraq may be sliding backwards into greater sectarian violence.

At the same time, U.S. combat troops are due to pull out of urban bases by July. Under the bilateral pact, U.S. troops can now conduct combat activities only with Iraqi approval.

The pact also sets out conditions under which U.S. soldiers might be tried in Iraqi courts, allowing such trials only for grave, premeditated crimes committed off base and off duty. Otherwise U.S. troops are subject only to U.S. military justice.

The Kut raid did not appear to meet the criteria for a court trial in Iraq.

Moussawi declined to clarify whether the government believes the soldiers should be sent to an Iraqi court or face U.S. military courts. “The conditions set out in the agreement determine what kind of court,” he said.

Families of the two people killed in the raid, a man and a woman, have said they are pressing charges.

Additional reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Michael Christie