Newspapers and comment ahead of vote on US-Iraq security pact

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SHOTLIST
1.Various of cars driving through central Baghdad
2. Various of people gathered at a newspaper stand reading newspapers
3. Mid of newspapers on display
4. Close of newspaper headline reading: (Arabic) “Approval of the security pact will be settled today”
5. Close of another newspaper headline reading: (Arabic) “The Vote on the agreement will be held today and probabilities of postponement is something possible”
6. Close of front page newspaper photograph showing Iraqi Lawmakers
7. SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) Ali Abdul-Mudalib, resident:
“The security pact between Iraq and US will be in favour of the US and it has nothing good for Iraq. Basically Iraq is the weaker party in this deal.”
8. Wide of cars driving along city street
9. SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) Hussein Ali, resident:
“The security agreement is in favour of Iraqi people because the Iraqi security troops are still not armed well. So the agreement is in favour of Iraqi people.”
10. Wide of cars driving along city street
STORYLINE:
Iraqis in the capital Baghdad voiced mixed reactions on Wednesday to the proposed Iraq-US security pact hours ahead of it being put to a vote in parliament.
The proposed security deal that would allow American troops to stay in Iraq through 2011.
Ali Abdul-Mudalib, a resident from Baghdad, said the security pact will benefit the US and not Iraq. He said Iraq would come out the weaker party in the deal.
However, Hussein Ali, another Baghdadi resident, said the agreement would benefit Iraqis because Iraqi security troops were still not well-armed and needed the support of US forces for longer.
Iraq’s leaders are seeking to win on Wednesday the support of sceptical lawmakers, focusing their efforts on a key Sunni Arab bloc that seeks concessions in exchange for backing the agreement in the parliamentary vote.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet approved the deal by an overwhelming majority on November 16.
But the ruling coalition’s main Shiite and Kurdish partners would only muster a slight majority in the 275-seat legislature if the largest Sunni Arab group, also represented in the ruling coalition, remains opposed to the agreement.
The 44-seat Sunni bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, said it would only support the agreement if the government meets its demand to put the same deal to a vote in a nationwide referendum in 2009.
It also wants the government to accept a package of reforms designed to give the minority Sunni Arabs a bigger say in the running of the country and better representation in the security forces.
A senior Shiite lawmaker involved in the negotiations said the government could only count on the support of 139 legislators – a few above the simple majority. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Such a small margin could prompt the country’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to publicly express his dissatisfaction. That would likely sink the deal. Al-Sistani is revered by Iraq’s majority Shiites. He has indicated that the agreement was less than ideal but would not object to it if it passes by a comfortable majority.
Two hard-line Iranian newspapers urged Iraq’s parliament on Tuesday to reject the pact, a stand that indicates opposition to the pact remains strong among key circles in the Iranian government.

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