BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday drafted a law allowing troops from Britain, Australia and a few other countries to remain beyond the end of the year, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
The law will cover the temporary presence in Iraq of the troops once a U.N. mandate expires next year, while paving the way for their withdrawal nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
The agreement with Britain, Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador and NATO appeared to be similar to a recently approved U.S.-Iraq security pact that allows U.S. troops to remain in the country for three more years. It was not immediately clear under what timeframe the other troops would be required to withdraw. “The cabinet approved a bill for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador and NATO, and to organize their activities during their temporary presence in Iraq,” Dabbagh said in a statement issued by his office.
The law governing the 4,100 British troops still in Iraq and smaller numbers from the other countries will need to be approved by the Iraqi parliament before the end of the year.
The U.S.-Iraq security pact covering the far larger U.S. force of 140,000 troops was fiercely opposed by some parliamentary blocs and was only passed after the Shi’ite-led coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki agreed to subject it to a referendum next year.