Iraqi speaker will discuss possible US troop stay during state-side visit
19/06/2011 15:44 Erbil, June 19 (AKnews) – Discussion about the possible extension of the U.S. troop stay will be top of the agenda for the Iraqi parliamentary speaker’s visit to America, his deputy said today.
Arif Tayfur told AKnews that the speaker, Osama Nujaifi, will meet with President Barak Obama, in a visit that starts tomorrow.
He will meet with many of the country’s senior officials to discuss the withdrawal, among other issues.
Under the State of Forces Agreement (SOFA), brokered in 2008, U.S. troops should pull out from Iraq by end of 2011. However, Iraq has the option to prolong the deadline if the security situation requires it.
Debate around the issue has been heating up in recent months, as the U.S. puts pressure on Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make a decision one way or the other. Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said he will reactivate his militia, the Mahdi Army, if troops stay on beyond the end of the year.
Other voices have lent their support to the idea of an extension. Many Kurdish politicians believe the U.S. presence is necessary to protect their ethnic rights.