Moqtada al-Sadr to disarm if US starts withdrawing troops; Iraqi FM: Iraq and US very close to security pact; 13 people killed in blasts in Tarmiya and Khanaqin
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  • A spokesman for Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stated that Sadr would dissolve his Mehdi Army militia if the US started withdrawing troops according to a set timetable. The comments came at a crucial stage in talks between Baghdad and Washington over a new security pact that would provide a legal basis for US troops to operate in Iraq when the UN mandate expires at the end of the year1. Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari on is part noted that US and Iraqi negotiators were ‘very close’ to reaching a long-term security pact. Zebari maintained that the Iraqis were insisting on the inclusion of a “very clear timeline” for the withdrawal of US-led forces. President Bush has however refused to accept any timetable for bringing back the US troops, though he and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki had agreed in July to set a ‘time-horizon’ for ending the US mission2.

    In continuing violence, around 13 people were killed, including an American soldier, in a wave of attacks across Iraq on August 10. A bomb exploded at a vacant house in Tarmiya, a largely Sunni district and once a major stronghold of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. In the northern Diyala Province, two people were killed and 27 wounded when a car bomb exploded on a commercial street in the city of Khanaqin. Ten of the wounded were members of the Kurdish police force.

    Interior Ministry officials indicated that some of the attacks, six of which occurred in Baghdad, were related to the impasse in Parliament over the provincial council election law. The election law, passed recently in parliament, was vetoed by the president over disagreements among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens about the status of the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk3.