Deal for U.S. forces to stay in Iraq near
Iraq’s foreign minister said Wednesday that concessions by both sides had advanced the prospects for a new security agreement needed for U.S. forces to remain in the country beyond the end of the year.
Seeking to dispel criticism that the agreement would infringe on Iraqi sovereignty, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the opposition was based on “misrepresentations, confusion and politicking.”
The agreement being negotiated would be in effect only one or two years and would not sanction any permanent U.S. bases, Zebari said at a news conference.
“That’s why this is not, as it has been misrepresented, another colonization of Iraq binding Iraq to a colonial agreement like the British Anglo-Iraqi agreement of the 1930s,” he said.
Zebari indicated, without being specific, that progress had been made on several issues that have kept the two sides apart, including the existing immunity from prosecution for the U.S. military and private contractors and the internment of Iraqi citizens by U.S. forces.
He said the U.S. had dropped its demand for continued immunity for contractors. U.S. officials have said they are not willing to allow trials of U.S. service members in Iraqi courts. Iraqis are demanding control of all Iraqi detainees.
Opposition leader refuses talks
With violence continuing against opposition activists, Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday that he would not negotiate with the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe on a government of national unity.
Tsvangirai also rejected participating in talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki and sharply criticized the African Union for not supporting the findings of African election observers that Friday’s presidential runoff vote was not democratic.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is angry over what it sees as assurances by South Africa to African leaders that a deal on a government of national unity is imminent, when talks on the issue have not begun. It sees Mbeki, who has avoided strong criticism of Mugabe, as compromised and biased toward the longtime president, who was inaugurated to a new term Sunday.