Baghdad : Iraq’s parliament convened Monday for a first reading of the final draft of the country’s security pact with the United States, a day after the Iraqi cabinet approved the deal.
The 275-member house would review the pact over the coming days and vote on the deal by November 24, deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiyah said in a press conference.
The agreement outlines the timeframe for the withdrawal of US troops and the legal basis for the future presence of US troops in Iraqi after a United Nations Security Council mandate expires at the end of this year.
Parliamentary Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani cancelled leave for all lawmakers and suspended foreign and out-of-town visits to guarantee that a decision is reached before the assembly goes into recess for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday at the end of the month or in early December.
The deal has to be passed by parliament’s five blocs before it can be be signed by US and Iraqi presidents. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker signed the deal in Baghdad Monday, but it still needs parliamentary approval.
The proposed deal met with widespread opposition in Iraq during months of negotations and ahead of cabinet’s approval of the amended final document during an emergency session on Sunday.
The most vocal opposition has come from fiery anti-US Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has called on his supporters to protest the US presence in Iraq.
The deal provides for a complete withdrawal of US troops by the end of 2011. More than 140,000 US troops are currently stationed in Iraq.
As lawmakers considered the deal Monday, more than a dozen people were injured in a car bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Amara earlier Monday.
The bomb exploded near the telephone company in the city centre, injuring at least 14 people, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported.
Most of the injured were civilians, according to the report. The predominantly Shiite city is located some 390 kilometres south of Baghdad.