Iraqis Demonstrate in Favor of US Pac

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BAGHDAD - More than 5,000 Iraqis demonstrated in the Iraqi city of Hillah on Nov. 18 to support the security agreement between the United States and Iraq that would require U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

The deal sets the legal basis for the future presence of US troops in Iraq after a United Nations Security Council mandate expires at the end of the year.

Under the agreement, the deadline for the complete withdrawal of US troops is Dec. 31, 2011. More than 140,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker signed the deal in Baghdad on Monday. However, it still needs parliamentary approval before it can be signed by the US and Iraqi presidents.

The demonstration in support of the security pact broke out in the centre of Hillah, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad. Clan chiefs and students were among the demonstrators, witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The demonstrators carried flags and signs that said "Together for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq" and "With heart, with blood, we save you, Iraq." They also chanted slogans that urged the Iraqi government to sign the security agreement with the U.S.

Hundreds of Iraqi police and soldiers surrounded the demonstrators who walked to the city counc