BAGHDAD, June 20 (UPI) -- Any decisions regarding the U.S. military role in Iraq is up to the country's ministers, not the prime minister, an official in the prime minister's party said.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told U.S. lawmakers recently that he expected Baghdad to ask U.S. forces to stay beyond the Dec. 31 deadline spelled out in a 2008 bilateral status of forces agreement.
Hassan al-Sunaid, an official in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, said it wasn't in the prime minister's purview to determine the fate of U.S. forces in the country.
"The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq or their withdrawal from the country is in the hands of the ministerial council represented by the different political parties," he told Iraq's al-Sumaria news agency. "It is not decided by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."
State of Law, he added, favors following the letter of the status of forces agreement. Sunaid added that all U.S. lawmakers would have to throw their weight behind an extension in order for it to go into force.
The Iraqi political system is in a near-standstill in part because of internal rivalries.
"If ministers are not politically backed by their parties, they cannot take a decision Sunaid said.