Iraqi Cabinet Approves U.S. Withdrawal Deal

The Iraqi cabinet has finally approved a security pact with the U.S. under which all American forces will withdraw from Iraq in three years. The deal, which has been negotiated for months, is expected to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament tomorrow, and raises speculation that Britain is on the point of agreeing a similar pact on the withdrawal of 4,000 British troops.

On Friday, Iraq’s national security adviser said British troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2009. But yesterday the Ministry of Defense insisted there were “no further announcements” about troop levels following the Prime Minister’s statement last July. Gordon Brown said then that he would expect a “further fundamental change of mission in the first months of 2009” after British soldiers moved from a combat role to “overwatch”.

The White House welcomed the U.S.-Iraqi pact as an “important and positive step”. It provides for 150,000 soldiers to withdraw from Iraqi towns and villages by the middle of next year and to pull out by the end of 2011. A compromise was reached on whether U.S. troops can be tried by an Iraqi court if they commit crimes while not engaged in operations.

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