BAGHDAD // Iraq's parliament is reconvening an emergency session today to decide whether to oust its abrasive Sunni speaker in a row that has imperilled a key resolution on whether thousands of British and other non-US troops will be allowed to stay beyond New Year's Eve. Kurdish and Shiite lawmakers have given Mahmoud al Mashhadani until just after midday to either resign or be voted out of office - a move that could open the way for ratification of the resolution, possibly on the same day or on Wednesday.
If the resolution is not passed before a UN mandate expires on Dec 31, those troops would have no legal authority to remain in Iraq. Britain has already said it plans to withdraw its 4,000 troops from southern Iraq by the end of May. Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania also have far smaller contingents. Under a separate agreement reached last month, US troops can remain in Iraq until the end of 2011.
Parliament is expected to meet in a closed-door session to decide Mr al Mashhadani's fate. Normally parliament would break up this week until January for a number of Islamic and Christian holidays. The fate of the resolution came into question during a vote last week when a debate over foreign forces degenerated into a shouting match between legislators over the arrest of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the US president George W Bush.
Mr al Mashhadani angered lawmakers from all parties by using abusive language and insulting a number of lawmakers. Kurdish and Shiite groups seeking his ouster have gathered signatures from 150 of the parliament's 275 deputies, far more than the 91 required to call for an ouster motion. That is also more than the 139 votes required to approve it. During a session on Monday to vote on the resolution, Mr al Mashhadani attempted to force the body to withdraw its opposition to him by threatening to put it into recess until Jan 7 - a week after the UN mandate expires. That followed a heated closed-door session that was marked by insults and shouting. He backed down after opposition lawmakers gathered enough signatures to force a vote against him and issued an ultimatum that he resign. Shiite lawmaker Diauddin al Fayadh said the lawmakers at the session will decide "either to enforce his resignation or to sack him."
If he is ousted, he will be replaced by one of his two deputies, and parliament can then approve the resolution. The main Sunni party will then choose a replacement. Elsewhere in Iraq, four policemen were killed and three others injured in bomb explosion in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. The bomb was planted outside the main gate of a house belonging to police Lt Col Ismaiel al Fandawi and detonated as he left for work, a police officer said. Mr al Fandawi, police chief in the nearby town of Mishada, was among those killed, according to a police officer. *AP