Iraq's PM reportedly won't sign extension

Fearing political division in the parliament and the country at large, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won't sign the just-completed agreement on the status of U.S. troops in Iraq, a leading lawmaker said on Friday.

Shelving the accord would constitute a major setback both for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to establish a legal basis for the extended presence of the 151,000 U.S. troops, and for Iraq, which gained notable concessions in the draft accord reached one week ago.

“No, he will not” submit the agreement to the parliament, Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, the deputy head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, told McClatchy Newspapers. “For this matter, we need national consensus.”

Instead, al-Sagheer said, Iraq's political leaders are thinking about seeking an extension of the United Nations mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires Dec. 31. Russia, a member of the U.N. Security Council, had given Iraq a direct assurance that it wouldn't veto an extension, he said, adding it was likely to last between six months and a year.

Ali al-Adeeb, the chief of staff of al-Maliki's Dawa party, said Wednesday that the Iraqi parliament “cannot approve this pact in its current form.”

Top U.S. military officials have warned of serious consequences should the agreement not be signed. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week that Iraq's forces “will not be ready to provide for their security” after the current U.N. mandate runs out.

“And in that regard there is great potential for losses of significant consequence,” Mullen said.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told USA Today: “Without (a security agreement), we would potentially have to cease all operations.”

Iraqis , however, are adamant that the accord must be open to further amendments if they are to approve it.