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Daily Activity Resumes in Eastern Baghdad Following Removal of Security Checkpoints


Activity returned to the streets of eastern Baghdad a day after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ordered U.S. forces to close checkpoints in the area. The order highlights the growing influence of Iraq's powerful Shi'ite community.

Cars and crowds were back in force throughout Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood.

A day earlier U.S. troops there abandoned a series of checkpoints that were part of a sweeping manhunt for a missing U.S. soldier.

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ordered the security posts removed Tuesday amid mounting protests from the neighborhood's Shi'ite residents.

It was an unusually direct and confrontational move by the Iraqi leader. Mr. Maliki has repeatedly asserted his independence from the United States in recent days.

He has also been shoring up his support within Iraq's powerful Shi'ite community.

American officials are downplaying reports of any major split within the coalition.

U.S. authorities in Baghdad say the prime minister's order was discussed beforehand during a meeting between with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backed new plans to spend up to a billion dollars to expand Iraq's security forces.

"I think it is correct to say that the Iraqi government and General Casey have made their recommendations and that I am very comfortable with the increases they have proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets, that they have proposed," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

There are still no available details on the plans.

Meanwhile, sectarian and insurgent violence continued throughout much of Iraq. A suicide bomb attack in Baghdad killed at least one person, and separate attacks left another eight people dead.

Officials have also raised the death toll in Tuesday's suicide bomb attack on a Shi'ite wedding party in Baghdad. At least 23 people are confirmed dead including at least nine children.

And U.S. authorities say an American soldier died Tuesday, the last day of the month.

At least 104 U.S. servicemen in Iraq died in October. It was the deadliest month for American forces since January 2005 when 106 servicemen were killed.

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