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Iraqi PM: Iraqi Forces To Handle Most Security by End of This Year


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says Iraqi forces will take over security from foreign troops in most of the country by the end of this year.

Mr. Maliki, speaking Monday at a press conference in Baghdad with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the security handover will start with two provinces next month.

He says other provinces will be transferred to Iraqi security forces gradually - except for Baghdad and al-Anbar - which have seen the most violence.

Mr. Blair says Iraq's new unity government is a new beginning for the country. He says the conflict in Iraq was longer and harder than expected.

Meanwhile, President Bush said Iraq's new government marks a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East. He also defended his policies in Iraq

Mr. Bush said he understands why some people question the U.S. strategy in Iraq. But he added they must understand there is a global war against a totalitarian group of terrorists, and the struggle in Iraq is key to defeating the terrorists.

Separately, the White House says Mr. Bush spoke by phone Monday with Jordan's King Abdullah about the new government in Iraq. Details of their conversation were not disclosed.

In violence, two car bomb attacks in Baghdad killed at least six people.

The U.S. military says a U.S. Marine died due to enemy action while operating in al-Anbar province on Sunday. A separate statement says U.S. troops captured a potential bomber and found evidence he was going to give his life in order to kill coalition forces.

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