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US-Iraq Security Deal in Doubt Again

Troop agreement with Iraq on the rocks as al-Maliki slams US commander for Iran bribery remarks

WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rallied in Baghdad's Sadr City on Saturday in opposition to a US-Iraqi security pact that would extend the presence of US forces in Iraq.

The march came as US and Iraqi leaders face a December 31 deadline to reach agreement on the deal, which would replace an expiring United Nations mandate authorising the US-led forces in Iraq.

"I support every Sunni, every Shiite and every Chrisitan rejecting this agreement. I denounce, condemn, reject and disown any one who assaults the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians in Iraq and Iraq's minorities" stated Sheikh Abdul- Hadi Al- Mahammadawi, aide to Muqtada- Al- Sadr announced during the rally.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and the Bush administration hammered out a draft agreement after months of bitter negotiations.But al-Maliki said he wanted the Iraqi parliament to sign off on the deal, while Iraq's pre-eminent cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said any accord must have national consensus.

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