Iranian cleric praises US-Iraqi pact

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A hard-line Iranian cleric has made a sharp turn from earlier criticism of the controversial Iraq-U.S. security pact and is now lauding the deal's approval in the Iraq parliament.

The Iraqi assembly approved the pact on Thursday. In the dealmaking before the vote, Iraq's Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati says the Iraqi parliament approved the deal under U.S. pressure but "did well" in deciding to put it to a referendum.

Jannati heads the powerful Guardian Council. He spoke during Friday sermons.

His remarks were the latest approval from Iran, where authorities have long denounced the landmark pact but rescinded after the Iraqi Cabinet endorsed the pact this month.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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