Caroline Wyatt / BBC News – 2009-01-01 00:06:50
BAGHDAD (January 1, 2008) — A new legal framework for the presence of US and UK forces in Iraq has come into effect.
The end of the UN mandate – put into place soon after the invasion in March 2003 – means Iraq will now take greater control of its own security.
This is another milestone towards regaining full sovereignty.
American and British forces will remain in the country – but with Iraqi permission, under two separate bilateral deals.
Iraqi forces will take over responsibility for the security of the Green zone in Baghdad, the fortified area which houses the Iraqi government, coalition headquarters and most embassies.
Foreign forces will also face new rules.
Iraqis now have the right to prosecute US soldiers for any crimes committed while off-base and off-duty, though it is not yet clear if the same rule will apply to British troops.
The details of Britain’s bilateral agreement with Iraq have not yet been made public.
However, two Iraqi prisoners being held by British forces at Basra air station have been handed back to the Iraqi authorities, as Britain no longer had the right to detain them after the UN mandate expired at midnight on Wednesday.
The two men were suspected of involvement in the murder of two British soldiers in March 2003, shortly after the invasion.
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