Minister warns U.S. pact crucial

SUNDAY, NOV. 23, 2008

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s defense minister warned Saturday that the government would declare a state of emergency if there was no agreement to keep U.S. forces in the country past the end of the year.

The threat by Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jassim appeared aimed at pressuring parliament to approve a security accord allowing U.S. troops to stay three more years.

Jassim has been a strong supporter of the agreement, which would replace a United Nations mandate that expires Dec. 31. But his language Saturday was unusually stark. He said at a news conference that if there was a sudden U.S. withdrawal, “we shall wait for a strike against us, in our midst.”

“There are armed groups that believe they are stronger than the security forces,” Jassim said. He noted bluntly that some political parties maintain armed wings and suggested that foreign intelligence services were trying to intervene in Iraq’s affairs.

He did not give specifics, but U.S. officials have accused Iran of supporting armed groups in Iraq. Iran has denied the charge.


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