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Obama Says Iraqis Ready for More Responsibility


U.S. President Barack Obama says a substantial number of the U.S. troops in Iraq could be home within one year.

In an interview on U.S. television late Sunday, before the annual American football championship game known as the Super Bowl, Mr. Obama said Saturday's peaceful elections in Iraq were "very significant" and signaled Iraqis are ready to handle more of their own security.

Mr. Obama said his administration is preparing to formally announce his plans for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He promised during his campaign to reduce the troop presence in Iraq and substantially reinforce it in Afghanistan.

Iraqi officials say allies of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made a strong showing in Saturday's provincial elections.

Many Iraqi Shi'ites credit the prime minister with reducing violence in the south after he ordered a military crackdown on Shi'ite militias last year.

Iraq's election commission says turnout for the vote in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces was 51 percent, or about 7.5 million people. Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi leaders had hoped for a turnout of more than 60 percent.

Some Iraqis complained that it was too hard to reach polling stations because of security restrictions on vehicle traffic. Others could not cast a vote because their names were not included on registration lists.

An Iraqi Kurdish official, Fuad Hussain, says about 70,000 ethnic Kurds in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala were unfairly denied the right to vote. He says the Kurds were left out of voter lists despite having handed their food ration cards to Iraqi authorities as part of the voter registration process.

Turnout was high among Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted Iraq's last provincial elections in January 2005. Officials say Sunni participation boosted turnout in Nineveh to 60 percent and in Anbar province to 40 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.


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