Iraq Gives Final Approval of US Pact
By VOA News
04 December 2008
Iraq's presidential council has approved a security pact with the United States, the final step to allow U.S. troops to remain in the country for another three years.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino welcomed Thursday's widely-expected ratification as a guide for future relations with Baghdad. She said the agreements will help solidify Iraq's democratic gains and affirm Iraq's sovereignty.
Iraqi lawmakers in recent weeks extracted some concessions from Washington, including a promise not to use Iraq to launch attacks against neighboring countries. Iraqi opposition lawmakers also managed to insert a pledge that the pact will go before the public in a referendum within six months.
The pact has been hailed as a signal of growing stability in Iraq years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
But explosions Thursday rocked western Anbar province, killing at least 15 people - and Mosul, where two U.S. soldiers were killed.
The officials say Thursday's blasts in Fallujah, a former bastion of Sunni insurgents, left more than 100 people wounded.
In the northern city Mosul, nine Iraqis were wounded when a suicide car bomber attacked. The U.S. military considers Mosul one of the last strongholds of al-Qaida in Iraq fighters.
The violence comes one day after a top U.S. commander in Iraq said the number of deadly attacks in the country fell in November to the lowest level since the beginning of the U.S.-led war in 2003.
Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin attributed the fall in violence to an increased number of Iraqi security forces on the streets. He said the killing or capture of a number of key figures from al-Qaida and Shi'ite extremist groups also was an important factor.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials say four suspected insurgents were killed and 32 captured in a series of operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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