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Iraq Vote on Pullout Put on Back Burner

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1 Iraq Vote on Pullout Put on Back Burner on Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:31 am

Roxy

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BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say they have put aside for the time being any plans to push for a referendum on the U.S.-Iraqi security pact governing the American troop pullout here.
The threat of a referendum had clouded U.S. withdrawal plans. If Iraqi voters were given a chance to vote on the deal some U.S. officials feared they would reject it, forcing an accelerated U.S. withdrawal.
Military officials have said they will comply with any quicker withdrawal in the case of a "no" vote in a referendum. The flagging momentum for a referendum now, however, eases pressure on U.S. commanders.
U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza said the referendum is an issue that is up to the Iraqis, and American troops are focused on continuing to comply with the security pact.
The security pact calls for all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. When the security treaty was approved, Sunni lawmakers insisted on a referendum as a condition of their support. Originally scheduled for last July, it was delayed.
Many observers suspected it might never happen. But in August, Iraq's cabinet set a new date of Jan. 16, coinciding with nationwide parliamentary polls. A "no" vote on the deal would trigger a termination clause, speeding up a full American troop withdrawal by almost a year. Lawmakers said Sunday there weren't any moves afoot to push through legislation authorizing the referendum. That, they say, means it will either be delayed once again, or dropped altogether.
Recent worry over Iraq's ability to take over security from the U.S. faster -- should the referendum force an early American withdrawal -- appears to have cooled some Sunnis' insistence on the referendum.
"A fast withdrawal of American troops may create a security vacuum," said Sunni lawmaker Saleh Mutlaq, who had pushed for a referendum.
Lawmakers are also consumed with trying to pass a crucial elections law, and they have had no time to deal with legislation for a referendum vote, said Muther al-Hakim, a member of both the largest Shiite alliance in parliament and the legal committee, which would be responsible for putting together a referendum proposal.
Mr. Hakim and Rashid al-Azawi, a lawmaker and senior member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, both said a referendum was no longer necessary because the U.S. military had so far abided by the security pact.
In the battle over the separate election legislation, political leaders have largely agreed to rely on the elections law from the 2005 race, with a few changes, lawmakers said Sunday.

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