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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraqi Parliament Speaker to Step Down

By VOA News
23 December 2008

Iraq's parliament speaker has offered to resign, removing an obstacle to keeping non-U.S. foreign troops in the country after the end of the year.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani had voiced strong opposition to a measure allowing troops from countries other than the U.S. another six months to stay. The Sunni lawmaker last week insulted his fellow members of parliament during a debate on the continued presence of foreign troops.

The squabble caused parliament to delay a vote Monday on whether to allow troops from Britain, Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania to operate in Iraq until July.

If the measure is not passed before a United Nations mandate expires December 31, the troops will have no legal basis to operate in the country next year.

These developments come as Romania's parliament voted Tuesday to maintain troops in Iraq in 2009, upon the request of President Traian Basescu.

Romanian officials said the operations Romanian forces will carry out and the status of the troops will be determined in conjunction with Iraq's government.

The U.S. and Iraq already have signed an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until the end of 2011.

In a separate development, Iraqi officials said authorities Tuesday released a group of Iraqi security officials arrested last week and accused of working to rebuild the outlawed Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein.

In past days, there have been conflicting reports about whether the 23 security officials were still in custody.

Iraq's interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said Friday the arrests were motivated by politics. He denied the security and defense ministry officials were planning a coup.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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