Thursday, November 20, 2008

Iraqi Sunni and Shias demonstrate in favour of US pact

(AFP) 19 November 2008 TIKRIT, Iraq - Sunni and Shia Arabs demonstrated in four Iraqi cities on Wednesday in support of a US military pact that would allow troops to remain in Iraq for another three years. In the Sunni city of Tikrit—the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein—and in the three mostly Shiite cities of Hilla, Samawah, and Basra, hundreds of people attended demonstrations, according to AFP correspondents. The agreement—which would have US troops pull out of all cities and towns by the end of June 2009 and from the country as a whole by 2011 -- was approved by the cabinet on Sunday and is currently being debated in parliament. “We support (Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki) on the agreement with the United States but at the same time we are demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees in American jails,” Tikrit tribal leader Khamis Naji Gebar told AFP. Tribal leaders turned out in traditional long robes and headscarves, waving tribal and Iraqi flags as they marched through the centre of town. In the southern port city of Basra around 1,000 people marched through the city centre. “We support the agreement because it serves Iraqi interests,” Mohammed Ali Hussein, one of the demonstrators, told AFP. “The country will not be stable unless we sign this agreement,” he added. Jassem Ali, another demonstrator, said the agreement would improve security. “After the agreement is signed Iraq will have full security. We will have a guarantee that the United States will withdraw by 2011. The demonstrators distributed leaflets reading: “The agreement will bring back sovereignty and security and the tribes of Iraq support the plan of dignity.” On Saturday similar marches were held across Iraq in support of Maliki, who over the past year has allied with local tribes to drive insurgents and militias out of large regions of the country that were once ungovernable. The alliances have come under fire from the leaders of the country’s Kurdish minority, which has accused Maliki of trying to consolidate Baghdad’s grip on territories the Kurds would like to add to their northern autonomous region.

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