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Iraq PM tells Mullen Iraqi troops can take over

Iraq`s prime minister has told the top US military officer that Iraqi forces are able to maintain security in their own country, as discussions intensify over whether to keep any US forces in Iraq past this year.



Baghdad: Iraq`s prime minister has told
the top US military officer that Iraqi forces are able to
maintain security in their own country, as discussions
intensify over whether to keep any US forces in Iraq past this
year.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made the remark during
a late yesterday meeting with Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of
the US joint chiefs of staff.

Mullen`s visit comes as US and Iraqi officials are
trying to decide what, if any, US troop presence should remain
in Iraq after the end of this year.

An agreement between both countries stipulates that
all American forces are to leave by Dec 31.

"The military and the security forces have become able
to take the responsibility, to maintain the security and to
work with professionalism and patriotism. We will continue to
enhance our combat abilities and capabilities while equipping
(forces) with the latest weapons and equipment," the premier
told Mullen, according to a statement released on the prime
minister`s website.

US officials have said repeatedly that they would
consider having American forces in Iraq past the year-end date
but only if the Iraqis asked. Privately, many Iraqi officials
say they are worried about what will happen in Iraq after the
US withdrawals but publicly they maintain that all American
forces will leave as scheduled.

Asking American forces to stay past 2011 would be
politically risky for al-Maliki, whose closest allies in
government are the virulently anti-American followers of
Muqtada al-Sadr.

The Shiite cleric, who spends much of his time in
neighbouring Iran, has threatened violence if American troops
stay in Iraq.

But military officials say Iraq still needs assistance
protecting its airspace and with intelligence gathering.
For Iraqis, the question of Americans staying past 2011 has
been a sore issue.

About 5,000 protesters defied a ban on Friday rallies
and gathered in the northern city of Mosul, 360 kilometres
northwest of Baghdad, to demand there be no extensions to US
troop presence. Hundreds also converged from nearby Sunni
provinces to join a sit-in at al-Ahrar square, which has been
going on since April 9, against American troops.

PTI

From Zee News

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