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US Hands Over Control of Iraqi Cities 


Iraqi forces officially assumed control of Baghdad and other cites across the country early Tuesday, following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from urban areas. Celebrations in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, include music, dance and poetry.

Iraqi government TV has been playing patriotic music to celebrate the U.S. military withdrawal from cities, towns and villages across the country, officially set to be completed by Tuesday, June 30.

Iraqi military vehicles were also covered with flowers to celebrate the event, and military parades, complete with band music, were organized in Diyala and Diwania provinces.

The government declared a "Day of National Sovereignty" to mark the event, and has invited ordinary citizens to join evening celebrations at Baghdad's Zawra Park for a festival of music and poetry.

Interior Minister Jawad Boulani told journalists the U.S. withdrawal is almost complete and Iraqi forces are capable of maintaining order across the country.

He says he believes Iraq's security situation is under control. "I do not think we need to declare a curfew," he insisted.

Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, operations director for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told al-Iraqia TV that all police and army units have been deployed across the country and that scheduled leaves have been canceled.

General Ray Odierno, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, told Fox TV on Sunday the United States has already completed the handover of Iraqi cities to the Iraqi government.

"We have already met the deadline. We have already moved out of the cities. We have solely been doing it over the last eight months and the final units have moved out of the cities over the last several weeks," Odierno said.

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammed al-Askeri listed all the areas where army forces have taken control. He also expressed confidence in the army's ability to maintain order.

A young policeman in Diyala province told al-Rifidain TV he thinks his men are "ready to assume their responsibilities" and the Iraqi people "want the army to be united and for politicians not to interfere with the security situation."

There have been a number of deadly bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk in recent days. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki indicated several weeks ago that he thought insurgent groups would likely step up their attacks before the June 30th U.S. pullout.

He has repeatedly maintained that Iraq's 750,000 member security forces are capable of maintaining order in the country, but urged Iraqi citizens to cooperate with the army and police by informing them of possible attacks.

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