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Iraq's Leader Says Campaign Will Soon Begin to Make Baghdad Safer


Iraq's Prime Minister said Saturday that Iraqi forces will soon begin a new campaign to take control of Baghdad neighborhoods from militant groups blamed for deadly sectarian violence. VOA's Jim Randle reports from northern Iraq.

In a speech on military issues, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said a new Baghdad security plan has gone through several revisions and is now ready.

The prime minister said the plan depends on Iraqi forces, supported by multinational troops.

The plan involves neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweeps by these forces.

Mr. Maliki said the goal of the plan is to protect the Iraqi people and to ensure that weapons are in the hands of government forces, not militias, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation. He said Iraq's armed forces will not permit anyone to act as a replacement to the democratically elected sovereign government.

The prime minister's announcement follows reports from Washington that President Bush will be sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. The president is expected to outline that plan publicly sometime in the coming week.

In the meantime, violence continues in Baghdad and elsewhere.

In once incident, a car bomb targeted the convoy of a high-ranking Iraqi police officer in central Baghdad. The official was not hurt, but one person nearby died and others were wounded.

In his remarks Saturday, Prime Minister Maliki also responded to criticism that followed the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Maliki said Saddam got a fair trial, something he denied to most of the people put to death during his rule. The prime minister called the execution an internal matter and urged foreign governments to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.

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