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  Updated: November 19, 2008

Iraq Sistani tells conditions for feasibility of pact with US

By: Ismail Zabeeh

HOLY CITY OF NAJAF, Iraq: Al-Marje Al-Aala Sayyed Ali Husseini As-Sistani said on Tuesday November 18 the U.S.-Iraqi security pact would only be viable if the country's main political groups and all stratums of Iraqi people backed it and it restored the country's full sovereignty.

This remark came as the 275-seat parliament prepared for a Nov. 24 vote on the pact, which would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for three more years.

Al-Sistani has not publicly taken a clear position on the pact, but he has indicated that it could only work if it is passed by a comfortable majority in parliament.

AFP quoted a senior official close to Ayatullah Sistani as saying that the cleric told two emissaries of Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki Saturday that while not ideal, the document seemed to be the best possible option.

The statement said Sistani wanted the agreement to secure the "restoration of full sovereignty and the realization of Iraq's stability and security." It also quoted him as saying that he wanted it to "win the support of all Iraqis and their main political groups."

"Any agreement that does not meet those two demands ... cannot be accepted," said As-Sistani, who called on lawmakers to "rise to their historic responsibility before Allah and the people."


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