Britain, Australia, Iraq sign troop pact

BAGHDAD, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- British and Australian troops will leave Iraq in July under withdrawal agreements approved by the countries' leaders, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Mohammed Jasim signed the agreements Tuesday with British Ambassador Christopher Prentice and Australian Ambassador Robert Tyson, CNN reported.


Iraq's Presidency Council approved a resolution Sunday to allow non-U.S. troops to stay in the country after a U.N. mandate authorizing foreign troop presence in Iraq expired.

Britain has 4,100 military personnel in Iraq, the second-largest contingent after the United States with 142,500. Other countries affected by the new resolution -- Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania -- have several hundred troops in Iraq combined, CNN said.

The resolution also authorizes Iraq to negotiate bilateral agreements with the countries, Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told CNN. If a new agreement hadn't been approved, the countries' forces would have been in Iraq illegally.

The United States reached a separate agreement in November with the Iraqi government concerning the presence of American troops. The pact calls for U.S. combat forces to pull back from population centers in Iraq by July 2009 and to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.


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