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Iraqis are ready for post-US missions

IRAQ'S prime minister said yesterday the country's security forces have proven they are ready to take over from the United States troops.

Nouri al-Maliki also said President Barack Obama agreed on Friday about the need to provide Iraq with more military equipment and weapons to fight insurgents and foreign threats.

Obama said on Friday he will end combat operations within 18 months but leave as many as 50,000 troops behind for another year and half of support and counter-terrorism missions.

He pledged to withdraw all US forces by the end of 2011 - in line with a security agreement that took effect on January 1.

Al-Maliki said the US mission in Iraq "will change completely" by the end of August 2010 and the Iraqis would be prepared.

"Iraqi security and military systems have proven, through tests, their abilities and capacities in establishing security across the provinces, which qualifies them to take over full security responsibilities from the American forces," al-Maliki said in a statement.

But some followers of anti-US Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were upset that as many as 50,000 US troops would remain in Iraq.

"This matter will be as dangerous as the occupation and control of the Iraqi soil and skies," said Sadrist lawmaker Nasser al-Issawi.

"We believe the withdrawal must come as a purely Iraqi decision. They have to withdraw immediately," he added.

Senior Sunni statesman Adnan Pachachi said his main concern was the need to make sure the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces can protect the entire country.


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