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Protests, Questions Mark 6th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Iraq is marking the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, with some questioning whether recent security improvements will hold as U.S. troops begin to withdraw.

Supporters of the Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated against the continued presence of U.S. forces at a march in the Baghdad district of Sadr City. Protesters burned an American flag as a senior aide (Sheikh Haidar al-Jabari) to the cleric called for a larger rally on April 9th.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told VOA (Kurdish Service) that although there have been significant security gains in Iraq, there are still problems that threaten the country's stability. He said he hopes the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops will not reverse the recent progress.

Violence has fallen in the past year, but the anniversary was also marked by several deadly attacks, including a suicide bombing near Fallujah that killed a police officer.

Security officials said the suicide bomber wounded several other people in an attack aimed at a local tribal leader who has worked with U.S. forces. The targeted official was reported to be unharmed.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for American combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by August 2010, with 35,000 to 50,000 remaining until the end of 2011 for support and training.

Iraqi politicians held no official ceremony as the war in the country entered its seventh year.

There were small protests against the war in Washington and New York Thursday on the eve of the anniversary.

About 140,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Iraq. Late last year, a U.S. congressional report estimated that there were also at least 190,000 private contractors working on U.S.-funded projects in the country.

In the six years since U.S.-led coalition forces invaded Iraq, the Web site "Iraq body Count" says more than 91,121 Iraqi civilians have been killed. At least 4,258 U.S. troops have been killed, along with 307 soldiers from other coalition countries.

Some two million Iraqis are believed to have fled the country to escape the violence.

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