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Iraq PM: Iraqi Forces Could Take Over Security Duties Soon


Iraq's prime minister says he believes his country's forces will soon be able to maintain security in Iraq without the help of coalition forces. In a television interview Sunday, he indicated Iraqi forces could be ready to take over security duties in less than a year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told CNN's Late Edition Iraqi troops are ready to start taking on more responsibility.

"We are on a level of strength that we could, if the multinational forces want to lessen its presence, it could do that because we could [continue] with the rest of the operation, and have stability and security to protect the democratic process," said Nouri al-Maliki.

He said his government aims to shorten the length of time multinational troops stay in Iraq. Iraqi forces have already begun taking over security in some Iraqi provinces, and are slated to take control of more provinces by the end of this year.

"We will take over and we will assess our need, whether they need these forces or not, and whether the Iraqi security forces were able to take over the security responsibility," he said.

He refrained from giving a definite timeline, but added that he expects the Iraqi forces to have full responsibility for all of Iraq in less than one year.

When asked about Iraqi health ministry statistics that show a steady rise in the number of Iraqi civilian deaths from January to July of this year, the prime minister said he does not believe that means that violence in Iraq is increasing or that the country is facing civil war.

"We're not in civil war," insisted Iraq's prime minister. "Iraq will never be in a civil war."

Iraqi officials say more than 3,400 civilians died in violence in July, making it the deadliest month for Iraqis. On Sunday, bombings in Baghdad, Baquba, Basra and Kirkuk claimed nearly 30 lives.

The prime minister's appearance on CNN came one day after he secured an agreement with hundreds of Shi'ite and Sunni tribal leaders to unite against sectarian violence.

The U.S. military says a U.S. soldier was killed Saturday night when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad. At least 2,600 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.