Tehran . 9 June 2008 . AFP
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki that US forces must quit Iraq. Khamenei made the comments today during a meeting with Al Maliki.
The Iranians have led the opposition to proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) covering the presence of foreign troops in Iraq beyond 2008 when the current UN mandate expires.
Echoing Iranian demands, Iraqi Shia leaders Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Moqtada Al Sadr have called on Iraqi government to reject any pact allowing US troops to remain in the country.
There have been reports in Iraqi media that US intends to keep some 50 military bases in Iraq. The White House has denied that the US goal is to maintain long-term military presence in the country, but has refused to set a timetable for withdrawal of US troops.
The pressure exerted by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders on Al Maliki during his three-day visit to Iran was the clearest signs yet of a concerted effort by Iran and its Shia allies inside Iraq to defeat any proposed SOFA that would allow long-term presence of US forces in Iraq.