Thursday, October 16, 2008

BAGHDAD | American troops could face trial before Iraqi courts for major crimes committed off base and when not on missions, under a draft security pact hammered out in months of tortuous negotiations, Iraqi officials familiar with the accord said Wednesday.

The draft also calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities by the end of June and withdraw from the country entirely by Dec. 31, 2011, unless the government in Baghdad asks some of them to stay for training or security support, the officials said.

It also would give the Iraqis a greater role in U.S. military operations and full control of the Green Zone, the 3-square-mile area of central Baghdad that includes the U.S. Embassy and major Iraqi government offices.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said American soldiers had killed the purported No. 2 leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, a Moroccan who trained in Afghanistan, recruited foreign fighters and ran operations in northern Iraq, where Sunni insurgents remain a potent threat.

The man, who the military said was known as Abu Qaswarah, died Oct. 5 during a raid on a building in the northern city of Mosul that served as a major “command-and-control location” for the region.

Discussing the security pact, a senior Iraqi official said Baghdad may demand even more concessions before the draft is submitted to parliament for a final decision. The two sides are working against a deadline of year’s end when the U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S.-led mission expires.

The Iraqi officials, familiar with details of the draft, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

In Washington, the State Department confirmed that a draft had been finalized.

U.S. officials declined to discuss details of the draft but characterized it as the administration’s final offer, saying no more concessions would be considered.

The announcement of Abu Qaswarah’s death was withheld until Wednesday to allow for positive identification, the military said.

American officials described Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, as a charismatic figure who had rallied al Qaeda’s network in the north after the movement suffered major setbacks in Baghdad and other former strongholds.

The death of such a senior al Qaeda leader will cause a major disruption to the terrorist network, particularly in northern Iraq, where the movement remains active, the military said.

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