Iraqi MPs back foreign troop deal

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s fractious Parliament on Tuesday gave last-minute authorisation for non-U.S. foreign troops to stay for the first half of 2009 after Parliament Speaker’s resignation broke a deadlock that had threatened the key measure.

The U.N. mandate authorising foreign troops expires December 31, but the new measure will allow Britain’s 4,000 soldiers and smaller contingents from several other countries to stay through and assist U.S. troops until the end of July. U.S. troops can remain until the end of 2011 under a separate security agreement reached this year.

Voting had been delayed by a power struggle between the Sunni Parliament Speaker and Shia and Kurdish lawmakers. But Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani announced his resignation on Tuesday and Parliament approved the troops measure in a voice vote a half-hour later.

Lawmakers applauded vigorously when Mr. al-Mashhadani announced he was stepping down. He had clashed repeatedly with Kurdish and Shia lawmakers in recent years.

He told lawmakers in behind-the-scenes negotiations that in return for his resignation he wants to be named head of a human-rights associationThe post is usually held by a Sunni and there are a number of Sunni parties in parliament. — AP

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