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US Commander Wants More Troops in Northern Iraq


The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he wants to station more American soldiers in disputed areas of northern Iraq where there has been a recent spike in violence.

General Ray Odierno said Monday U.S. soldiers would partner with both Iraqi government and Kurdish troops to secure the region marked with tension between Arabs and Kurds.

He said the deployment would be a temporary "confidence-building" measure.

Odierno said no official decision has been made, but both Iraqi and Kurdish leaders are receptive to the idea.

Deploying troops to the area would be a departure from the security pact calling for American troops to pull back from populated areas by June 30. But Odierno says the move would not affect the overall withdrawal timeline.

Also Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement condemning bombings in Iraq over recent weeks, in particular the targeting of Shia places of worship and ethnic Shabak and Yezidi villages in northern Iraq's Nineveh province.

Meanwhile, Iraq's government has approved a bill that will allow Iraqis to vote on the U.S.-Iraqi security pact during the national parliamentary elections in January.

The security pact signed last year between Washington and Baghdad lays out the timeline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

The measure to hold a referendum on the pact still needs to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.

In other news, Iraqi police say gunmen in a car attacked a neighborhood guard checkpoint, killing one guard and wounding at least two others.

Officials say Monday's assault occurred in the town of Musayyib, about 60 kilometers south of Baghdad.

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