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Iraqi Cabinet votes to approve SOFA

BAGHDAD, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Iraq's Cabinet Sunday approved a status of forces agreement with the United States allowing U.S. troops to stay there after Dec. 31, officials said.

Twenty-seven of 40 Iraqi Cabinet members voted to approve the status of forces agreement, or SOFA, and it will now go before the country's 275-member parliament, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN Sunday.

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The agreement, which has been the subject of months of negotiations between the U.S. Bush administration and Iraqi ministers, replaces a U.N. mandate that expires at the end of the year. It subjects off-duty U.S. troops and foreign contractors to Iraqi law in certain instances and calls for the withdrawal of all occupying forces by 2011.

Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told CNN the final draft of the SOFA included changes that made it "satisfactory" for the Iraqis.

Many in Iraq, including radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, oppose the SOFA because it allows U.S. forces to remain in Iraq after the Dec. 31. They say the deal compromises Iraq's sovereignty.

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