A looming crisis over the legality of foreign, non-American troops in Iraq has been averted with the parliament in Baghdad voting to let them stay.
The UN mandate for British, Australian and other troops to operate in Iraq runs out on New Year’s Eve. They are expected to withdraw next summer, but the intervening six months were not covered by law.
The debate in parliament was delayed several times over the fate of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Some MPs said he had insulted them, and demanded that he quit. He ultimately agreed to go, allowing the debate about troops to begin.
The decision allows the Baghdad government to give legal authority to the foreign forces until July.
Some 140,000 US troops will remain in Iraq until 2011. They will wind down their patrols of towns and villages next year, and return to their bases before withdrawing completely two years later.