U.S. Security Pact passes Iraq's parliament

After months of difficult talks between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators, Iraq's parliament on Thursday approved a security pact with the United States. 149 lawmakers of Iraq's 275 seat parliament passed the deal.

This means that troops will remain in Iraq until 2012.The agreement also sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. These dates are "set and fixed" and are "not subject to the circumstances on the ground," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The pact curbs U.S. powers to arrest Iraqi citizens and conduct military operations, and is seen by the Iraqis as a way to safeguard Iraqi sovereignty. It gives Iraq authority over about 150,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Some Iraqis fear this could be the first step towards a permanent occupation. Right before the contentious parliamentary vote, the Iraqi parliament's biggest Sunni bloc said it wanted guarantees of a public referendum on a U.S. security pack.

Sunnis are also concerned their influence may wane once the Americans leave. Majority Shi'ite Iraq has a Shi'ite leadership and has good ties with neighboring Iran, a Shi'ite country.

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