U.S. drops immunity from Iraqi SOFA

June 18, 2008 at 4:48 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) -- The United States dropped demands to give foreign security contractors immunity from Iraqi law in the draft security arrangement with Iraq, officials say.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari Wednesday told London newspaper The Independent that U.S. officials accepted requests from Iraqi negotiators to drop the immunity demand.

There are roughly 160,000 U.S. security contractors working in Iraq, compared with approximately 145,000 U.S. military forces, the newspaper said.

Zebari is a staunch supporter of the arrangement, in contrast to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said negotiations regarding the security deal, formally the status of forces agreement, had "reached a dead end."

Iraqi negotiators, including Zebari, are in Washington this week studying SOFA deals between the United States and other countries, such as Japan and Turkey. Further considerations on the table include more coordination with Iraqi authorities over U.S. military operations and a joint Iraqi-American center to oversee counter-terrorism efforts in the country.

Though Maliki's stance has softened somewhat, critics of the security arrangement see it as undermining Iraqi sovereignty and question the negotiating line offered by U.S. officials.

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