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Referendum on U.S.-Iraq deal advances

Referendum on U.S.-Iraq deal advances
Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers train in a live-fire demonstration after graduating from an Iraqi-led security convoy course in Baghdad, Iraq on May 31, 2009. (UPI Photo/Jeffrey Ledesma/U.S. Military) | License Photo

BAGHDAD, June 10 (UPI) -- Iraqi politicians are moving ahead with a plan to hold a national referendum on the country's security agreement with the United States, analysts say.

U.S. diplomats believe that such referendum would fail, setting up a situation in which U.S. forces could be forced to leave the country nearly a year-and-a-half earlier than the currently planned Dec. 31, 2011, exit date, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

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The newspaper said the Iraqi Cabinet Tuesday approved $99 million to hold the referendum, which will now go before Parliament, which must approve the spending as well as hammering out exactly how the referendum would be staged. Analysts say that may be a lengthy process, and U.S. diplomats are said to be quietly discouraging the referendum plans.

Under the current proposal, the referendum would be held July 30. The inclusion of provisions for such a referendum was little discussed as Iraq and the United States were hammering out the status of forces agreement last year. The Times said that it was included as a way to appease factions wanting to avoid accusations they had voted to allow U.S. troops to stay on Iraqi soil until 2012.

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