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Iraqi Official Says Government is Stepping Up Security Efforts


Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh says his government is working to take greater control of security in the country, and is urging coalition forces not to leave too early. Saleh met Monday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh was eager to address increasing international concerns about the rising violence in Iraq. Speaking after his meeting with Prime Minister Blair in London, Saleh insisted his government is making progress.

"We hope, by the end of this year, one half of Iraqi provinces will come under Iraqi command," he said. "And, we hope, in the next year, we will be expediting and fast-tracking that process to show to the Iraqi people, first and foremost, and then to the international community, including the generous people of the United Kingdom and the United States that there is progress in Iraq."

Saleh said the international community should not panic, and said that foreign troops must not leave his country before Iraqi forces have a chance to solidify their control.

Insurgent attacks and sectarian violence have been increasing in Iraq, causing rising concerns in London and Washington about the deteriorating situation.

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan drew to a close and people prepared for the traditional Eid al-Fitr feast, the violence raged on.

At least 40 Iraqis have been reported killed in fighting and attacks in the last several days. The U.S. military also said five of its servicemen were killed in combat Sunday, bringing U.S. military deaths in October so far to 85.

There is growing pressure in London and Washington to get Iraqis to take over more responsibility for securing their country, which would allow American and British forces to begin pulling out.

Both the U.S. and British government insist they will not pull out until the mission is completed, nor will they set a timetable for withdrawal, which they say will only embolden the enemy.

In a U.S. television interview Sunday, senior White House counselor Dan Bartlett denied the Bush administration is simply staying the course. He said the administration's strategy has been flexible.

In another TV interview, Senator Joseph Biden, a senior democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration has not put enough pressure on the Iraqi government to find a political settlement. Biden warned, the time is coming when the American public will no longer tolerate lives and money being poured down, what he called a "rat hole," because, he said, "we're in the middle of a civil war."

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