BAGHDAD (AFP) - Anti-American Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's camp on Monday failed to halt the first reading in parliament of a controversial Iraq-US military pact which has been passed by the Iraqi cabinet. The Sadrist movement has vigorously opposed the wide-ranging agreement, which would replace a UN mandate that expires at the end of this year and allow US forces to remain in the country until the end of 2011. When parliament convened to discuss the pact, the 30 Sadrist deputies demanded that the body instead examine another draft law on treaties and conventions, an AFP reporter present in the chamber said. "We want the law on treaties and conventions to be the only thing discussed today, not the accord with the United States," shouted Aqil Abdel Hussein, head of the Sadr group. Mahmud Mashhadani, the speaker of parliament, compromised and ruled that both texts would be read. The assembly read the first half of the military pact, then read the Sadrist bill, then completed the reading of the pact. Ahmed Masaudi, spokesman for the Sadrist bloc, had earlier said the movement would submit a bill requiring a two-thirds majority for parliamentary approval, replacing the current requirement of a simple majority. The current law is "contrary to the constitution and to the instructions from the Guide, Sistani, to obtain a national consensus on this agreement," Masaudi said on Sunday, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani. The country's most powerful Shia cleric has not taken a clear position on the agreement other than to say it must respect Iraq's "sovereignty," and has left a verdict on the deal to elected leaders. But Sadr and his followers have adamantly opposed concluding any agreement with the US "occupier" and vowed to hold mass demonstrations to demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces. "The Sadr movement will use every legal avenue to work to stop this agreement," Masaudi said. The 275-member parliament adjourned after reading both bills on Monday. The deputy speaker said on Sunday that the military pact would pass through a weeklong process of deliberation before a final vote on November 24. But parliament has no power to make changes to the text of the agreement. The pact was expected to pass parliament after winning approval from the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday with the support of the major political blocs representing Iraq's Shia majority and its Sunni and Kurdish communities. A senior US official involved with the negotiations said he was hopeful parliament would approve, adding that the pact is the only realistic way to provide legal authority to US forces past December 31. "We are very hopeful that the Iraqi parliament will accept," the official said on condition of anonymity. "There is no alternative to the security agreement." Syria, meanwhile, slammed the pact, with Information Minister Mohsen Bilal saying it "rewards the American occupier, and gives it rights at the expense of the Iraqi people and their neighbours." If parliament approves the pact it would need to be ratified by Iraq's presidential council before it could be signed by the two governments. In a symbolic ceremony broadcast on state television before Monday's parliamentary session began, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and US ambassador Ryan Crocker added their signatures to the pact. The agreement requires the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and from the country as a whole by the end of 2011, but senior US and Iraqi officials have said it could be modified by mutual consent. US president-elect Barack Obama told CBS television on Sunday that when he takes office on January 20 his government "will start executing a plan that draws down our troops" in Iraq.