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Rocket kills two in Green Zone

Susman is a Times staff writer.

A rocket Saturday slammed into a compound near the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, killing two people in an attack that seemed to reflect the anger of Shiite Muslim militias over a new U.S.-Iraqi security pact.

Another rocket hit Camp Victory, the main U.S. military compound in Baghdad, late Friday, the military said.

Both strikes bore the hallmarks of Shiite militia attacks. The one that targeted the Green Zone was the first reported there in more than a month.

The security deal, which sets a deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, passed the parliament Thursday over the fierce objections of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.

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

The security pact says U.S. combat forces should leave cities by June 30, 2009, and pull out of the country by the end of 2011, but Sadr says there are loopholes 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 U.S. forces against Shiite militiamen. The barrages stopped after Sadr ordered his supporters to end all fighting.

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The U.S. military said Iranian-made rockets were used in the two latest attacks, although it gave no details.

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

The strike at Camp Victory caused only minor damage, the U.S. military said.

In what could be read as a show of support for those wary of the security pact, a statement from the office of Iraq’s most influential Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said Saturday 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 July referendum. If they reject the deal, Iraq’s government would be obliged to cancel it or to seek amendments.

Neighboring Iran, which denies involvement in Iraq’s violence, has also come out against the pact. Iran’s state-run radio said Iraqi leaders “are under pressure from America,” which it said wants to prolong the U.S. stay in Iraq. The radio report suggested that Iraqis could be counted on to reject the pact in the referendum.

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tina.susman@latimes.com


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