The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the 160,000-member multinational force in Iraq.
The council acted quickly in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said a top government priority is to assume full responsibility for security and stability in the country — but that it needs more time.
The resolution, drafted by the United States, extends the mandate of the multinational force for one year starting on Dec. 31 and authorizes a review at the request of the Iraqi government or by June 15.
The resolution contains the same provision as past resolutions — a commitment that the council "will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq."
Al-Maliki's request for the one-year extension with a termination clause came as the Bush administration stepped up diplomatic efforts to stabilize the country.
In other developments: U.S. troops fought with suspected insurgents in Ramadi on Tuesday, and the battle left six Iraqis dead, including five girls ranging in age from an infant to teenagers, the U.S. military said. The fighting began after a coalition patrol discovered a roadside bomb in the Hamaniyah section of Ramadi, and two men fled to a house, where they took up positions on the roof, the military said. As coalition forces removed the bomb, the suspected insurgents opened fire on the U.S. troops, who fought back with machine guns and tanks, the statement said. One of the gunmen may have been wounded and removed from the scene by other militants, the statement said, adding that there were no coalition casualties. Iraq's Shiite militia has received training from the Iranian-sponsored group Hezbollah, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The New York Times. Between 1,000 and 2,000 members of the Mahdi army, composed of Iraqi Shiites led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were trained by Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, the official said. Iran, along with Syria, has fostered the link between Iraqi Shiites and Hezbollah, the official said. The U.S. official's claim bolsters an observation made by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia sent 300 fighters to Lebanon. "They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi army," he told the Times this summer. Both the U.S. official and the Mahdi commander spoke on condition of anonymity. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States of destabilizing Iraq through hired terrorists and former members of Saddam Hussein's regime. In a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Khamenei pledged that Iran would do all it can to use its influence among Iraq's Muslim Shiites to quell the violence in the country, according to a state television report. "The main reason for the current situation in Iraq is America's policies," the television quoted Khamenei as telling Talabani, who is on the final day of a two-day visit to Iran. Both Iran and Iraq are Shiite majority countries. President Bush said Tuesday that sectarian violence rocking Iraq is not civil war but part of an al Qaeda plot using violence to goad Iraqi factions into attacking each other. "No question it's tough, no question about it," Mr. Bush said. "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al Qaeda causing people to seek reprisal." The Washington Post reports that the U.S. military is no longer able to defeat insurgents in western Iraq or match al Qaeda's rising popularity, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report about the military's mission in Anbar province. Iraq's Parliament voted unanimously Tuesday to extend Iraq's state of emergency for 30 more days, and suspected Sunni insurgents set off bombs that killed eight people and wounded 40 across the country. Lawmakers decided to continue the state of emergency that allows for a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations. The measures have been renewed every month since they were first authorized in November 2004. Two car bombs exploded Tuesday near a hospital morgue in Baghdad, killing three civilians and one policeman and wounding 19 civilians, a police officer said on condition of anonymity to protect his security. Insurgents kill many of the Iraqi security forces working with the U.S.-led coalition.