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A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to this reporter, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq.
Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which U.S. troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilize Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the U.S.
President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated.