Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Iraqi MPs approve Britain naval training deal

Iraqi MPs finally approved a naval training agreement between Baghdad and London on Tuesday, officials said, months after about 100 British sailors had to leave Iraq because no deal was in place.

Although Iraq's cabinet approved a draft accord in June, it faltered in parliament as lawmakers loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr repeatedly walked out of debates on it, ensuring the assembly failed to reach the required quorum.

"We welcome today's decision of the Council of Representatives (parliament) to endorse the Iraq-UK Agreement on training and maritime support, which now goes forward to the Presidency Council for final ratification," Christopher Prentice, the British ambassador to Baghdad, said in a statement.

"The agreement is evidence of our mutual commitment to building the capability of the Iraqi Navy to undertake protection of Iraqi territorial waters and installations."

Embassy spokesman Jawwad Syed earlier told media he could not specify when the Royal Navy trainers would return to Iraq, but said, "Hopefully, it will be as soon as we can."

A parliamentary official, who declined to be identified, said about 100 MPs had approved the agreement in parliament on Tuesday. The official said a quorum was reached despite another walkout by Sadrist MPs.

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