Rocket attack kills 2 in Green Zone

Earlier, strike hits US compound in Baghdad

By Tina Susman
Los Angeles Times / November 30, 2008
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BAGHDAD - A rocket slammed into a compound near the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone yesterday, killing two people in an attack that seemed likely to reflect the anger of Shi'ite militias over a new US-Iraqi security pact.

Late Friday, a rocket hit Camp Victory, the main US military compound in Baghdad, the military announced.

Both rocket strikes bore the hallmarks of Shi'ite militia attacks, and the one that targeted the Green Zone was the first reported there in more than a month.

The security pact, which sets a Dec. 31, 2011, deadline for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, passed Parliament on Thursday over the fierce objections of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Although he has held his militia to a cease-fire since August 2007 and said he is focusing its activities on social and educational activities, Sadr also says his "Promised Day Brigade" has the right to attack Americans if they do not leave Iraq.

Under the security pact, US combat forces are required to leave Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and pull out of the country by the end of 2011, but Sadr said there are loopholes in the agreement that could allow the Americans to stay longer.

"The military option is up to our supreme leader, but as everyone knows, we have the right to resist," said Liwa Sumaysim, the head of Sadr's political bureau.

The Green Zone was pummeled by mortar shells and rockets in March and April during fighting that pitted Iraqi and US forces against Shi'ite militiamen. The barrages stopped after Sadr called for a cease-fire.

The US military said Iranian-made rockets had been used in both of the recent attacks, although it gave no details.

A UN spokeswoman said the rocket that hit near the compound struck about 6:15 a.m., killing two and injuring 15. All were workers for a catering company supporting the UN staff in Iraq, and none was Iraqi, she said. She did not give their nationalities.

In what could be read as a show of support for people wary of the security pact, a statement from the office of Iraq's most influential Shi'ite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said yesterday that there was "concern toward the security pact."

Sistani does not involve himself in politics, but his opinions carry great weight because of his religious standing.

The statement said the pact lacked national consensus and was vague on some issues. It said the final judgment on the pact would come from Iraqis, who are to vote on it in a referendum to be held by July 30. If they reject the deal, Iraq's government would be obliged to cancel it or to seek amendments.

Sistani's comments are expected to put pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government to sell the deal to the public before the referendum.

The pact also has to be ratified by Iraq's three-member presidential council before it comes into force.

Parliament approved the agreement in a session attended by just under 200 of the legislature's 275 lawmakers.

Of those in attendance, about 150 voted for the pact in a show-of-hands vote.

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