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U.S. Will Seek Wide-Ranging Rights Of War in Iraq Agreement
By Ken Fireman
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. will ask the Iraqi government for the right to conduct combat operations and detain prisoners and will seek legal protections for American troops in an agreement that defines a long-term relationship between the two countries, a U.S. defense official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those provisions will top the list of U.S. demands in talks with Iraqi officials for an accord that will extend beyond the presidency of George W. Bush.
U.S. officials will argue that these demands -- reported by the New York Times yesterday on its Web site -- flow logically from the fact that Iraq is still a combat zone, the defense official said. If U.S. forces operating there didn't have the legal authority to engage in combat and detain prisoners when necessary, there would be little point in their being in Iraq, the official said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday he expected that the agreement wouldn't authorize permanent U.S. bases in Iraq or attempt to set force levels for American troops.
"The way to think about the framework agreement is an approach to normalizing the relationship between the United States and Iraq,'' Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.
Gates also said the process of negotiating the agreement was in a preliminary phase and that U.S. officials had only just begun to discuss it among themselves.
The so-called framework agreement would replace the current legal authorization for U.S. forces in Iraq, a United Nations Security Council resolution that expires at the end of this year.
U.S. and Iraqi leaders jointly declared on Nov. 26 their intention to conclude a permanent agreement and set forth broad principles for its provisions. Among those is a U.S. commitment to protect Iraq from external and internal threats to its security.
Some Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates, including Senator Hillary Clinton, have objected that such an agreement may burden the next U.S. leader with unwanted commitments. They have demanded that any agreement be submitted to Congress for approval.
"Where have we ever entered an agreement to defend a foreign country from external and internal attack that was not a treaty'' requiring congressional approval, said Representative William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing yesterday on the issue.
`Civil War' Concern
``This could very well implicate our military forces in a full-blown civil war in Iraq,'' Delahunt said. "If a commitment of this magnitude does not rise to the level of treaty, then it is difficult to imagine what could.''
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, said yesterday that an agreement establishing a long-term security arrangement with Iraq would need Senate approval.
On the other hand, the Delaware Democrat said, an accord that merely governs the conduct of U.S. troops and protects them from Iraqi prosecution -- known as a ``status-of-forces agreement'' -- probably wouldn't require Senate assent.
``They're totally different animals, and the honest-to-God truth is I don't have any idea, I suspect the administration may not, of what they're talking about,'' Biden told reporters.
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