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Rumsfeld Praises Transfer of Security in Iraq to International Forces - 2003-09-06


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has met with the Polish commander of a recently installed international force providing security in central Iraq. The visit came on the last day of Mr. Rumsfeld's three-day visit to Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld Saturday praised the transfer of security responsibilities to international forces in central Iraq, calling it a major accomplishment.

He made the remarks in the historical site of Babylon, south of Baghdad, four days after U.S. military commanders handed over responsibility for security in the area around Hilla and Najaf to an international force led by Poland. Poland is one of 29 other countries that are participating in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

The U.S. defense secretary acknowledged that the security situation is not good in Iraq, blaming the situation on attacks by loyalists of the former government of Saddam Hussein, international terrorists and ordinary criminals.

He said the work will be difficult but a wonderful start has been made, and pledged that the U.S.-led coalition would prevail in its goal of restoring stability to the country.

Mr. Rumsfeld spent Friday visiting coalition forces in the northern cities of Tikrit and Mosul. He arrived in Iraq Thursday and met in Baghdad with the head of the coalition provisional authority, Paul Bremer, and the U.S. commander of coalition forces, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez.

In remarks recorded earlier in the trip, Mr. Rumsfeld said that although the Bush administration continues to seek military support from other nations, the ultimate goal is for Iraqis to take over.

"We want more force protection, more site protection, more border protection, more police protection in cities by Iraqis," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "This is their country."

Coalition officials say they expect the number of Iraqi security forces to nearly double by the end of next year from the current figure of 55,000.

Mr. Rumsfeld's visit took place under tight security. His itinerary was kept secret, and he was protected throughout the trip by a phalanx of soldiers and security officials.

There was no let up in violence in Iraq during Mr. Rumsfeld's visit. A British civilian de-mining expert was shot to death in Mosul and unidentified gunmen attacked a Sunni mosque in Baghdad, wounding three worshippers.

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