Iraq’s prime minister and president reviewed on Tuesday the “final draft” of the security pact with the United States – a first step in a process that could finally end in an agreement governing U.S. troops in Iraq.
Yassin Majid, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not say whether the draft resolved the contentious issue of legal immunity for U.S. troops, the last major obstacle standing in the way of a deal.
Although Iraqi officials had said the issue was unresolved, Majid’s use of the phrase “final draft” suggested that negotiations have ended.
American and Iraqi negotiators have been working for most of this year to hammer out an agreement setting down rules for the U.S. military mission beginning next year.
The meeting with President Jalal Talabani, as well as the Sunni and Shiite vice presidents, lasted for several hours and was the first in a series of planned sessions aimed at measuring political support for the agreement before al-Maliki submits it to parliament for a final decision.
Russia to disband majority of army
Russia’s defense minister announced Tuesday a sweeping reform of the military that will cut hundreds of generals and disband nine of every 10 army units, the defense minister said Tuesday.
Though downsized to 1.13 million from the 4 million-member Soviet army, the military has done little to reduce its number of officers. It maintains almost the same number of military units as in the Soviet era, though many exist only on paper.
By 2012 Russia will reduce its armed forces to 1 million, including about 150,000 officers, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in televised remarks.
Serdyukov said the Russian military now has 355,000 officers – about one-third the total strength of the military. That’s a far greater share than in other nations, he said.
Prime minister to visit Cuba
Spain’s prime minister has accepted an invitation to visit Cuba next year and could become the first western European leader to travel to the communist-run island in nearly a decade.
Details of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s trip still needed to be worked out, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said after meeting Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart in Madrid. He said Spain was satisfied with Cuba’s advances in human rights.
The last time a western European head of state or government visited Cuba was during the Ibero-American Summit in Havana in 1999. It was attended by Spanish King Juan Carlos and then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as well as Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio.