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Iraq Takes Control of Cities and Towns as US Withdraws


Iraqi forces officially assumed control of Baghdad and other cites across the country, following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from urban areas.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, accompanied by Defense Minister Jawad Boulani, reviewed Iraqi troops from the army, navy and air force as a military band played music to celebrate the official U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi towns and cities.

Mr. Maliki then laid a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier as an army bugler played to commemorate Iraqi troops that have died in the service of their country.

Iraqi soldiers and police staged a long parade in full dress uniform in Baghdad to commemorate the U.S. pullout and to mark the day the government is calling "National Sovereignty Day."

Most Iraqis were joyful and jubilant, and few people went to work on the declared national holiday.

Iraqi army tanks, armored personal carriers and other military vehicles lined the streets, as police and soldiers were deployed in force to scare away troublemakers.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the day a "great victory" for the Iraqi people and said the U.S. pullout was "historic."

He says that he has no doubt Iraq will come out holding its head high, and that the country is prepared to retaliate with full force against whomever wishes ill against it and its people. He says it is a national and historic duty to stand together behind Iraq's armed forces, which are responsible for this great achievement. He said the occasion must not be used for political or sectarian revenge. He said Iraqis must overcome differences and be wise in dealing with political challenges.

The prime minister also noted all U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, urging his countrymen to look forward with confidence to that moment.

He says Iraqis hope and aspire to achieve the ultimate goal set to take place at the end of 2011, with the final pullout of foreign troops from the country. This event will surely take place, he insists, according to the scheduled timetable.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also spoke on Iraqi TV, urging his countrymen to cooperate with the country's political and military leaders to achieve stability.

He says destabilizing the situation in Iraq will not profit any one. The key element in achieving stability, he argues, is the support and cooperation of the public with the political leadership and the armed forces.

U.S. troops have reportedly dismantled dozens of bases and command posts inside Baghdad and elsewhere, an handed many over to Iraqi forces.

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