Iraqi Parlaiment to Debate Renewal of UN Mandate

Editor's note: for background on the political fight surrounding the UN mandate, see "Iraqi Government to UN: 'Don't Extend Mandate for Bush's Occupation'" by Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari said on Sunday that a request for a Multi-National Force (MNF) troop extension in Iraq will be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for consideration.

"This will be the last request for troop extension…It will not be presented to the UN Security Council prior to its submission to the Iraqi parliament for deliberation," the minister said in statements to the press ahead of today's parliamentary session.

The parliament objected to repeated requests from the Iraqi government for the coalition forces to extend their presence in Iraq, without its prior consent.

Zibari, alongside Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, were invited to attend the parliamentary session on Sunday during which the principles of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and the United States will be declared.

According to Zibari, the declaration does not indicate an approval of the troop extension. "The request for troop extension will be submitted to the parliament later," the minister said, providing no further details of the date set for the deliberation.

Today's parliamentary session witnessed arguments between Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and Falah Shanshal, a legislator from the Sadrist bloc, or Iraqis loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and the chairman of the Debaathification Committee, during a debate on the draft accountability and justice law.

"The squabble began when Shanshal accused Mashhadani of collusion to read and vote over the draft accountability and justice law," a House source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) earlier today.

"The argument prompted the Sadrist parliamentarians to clap their hands on their seats to create chaos in an attempt to prevent the draft reading," said the source, adding Mashhadani, a Sunni, has "threatened to have them expelled from the session in accordance with the House's statute."

Since it was first announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in June 2007, the draft law has been facing fierce opposition and several reservations, mostly by the Sadrists, who occupy 30 out of a total 275 seats in parliament.

The draft is an alternative for the debaathification law, enacted by former U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer, who ruled Iraq after the fall of the former regime in April 2003.

The new law will allow thousands of Baathists to return to the political scene and receive their retirement rights.

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