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Maliki Orders Iraqi Military to Speed Up Security Crackdown

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered Iraqi military commanders to speed up preparations for a U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad.

In an address to the commanders Tuesday, Mr. Maliki acknowledged a "delay" in the plan, and he called for the military to quickly finish its preparations.

The new security plan calls for 90,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops to patrol Baghdad's neighborhoods, where a string of attacks has killed hundreds in recent days.

Iran's government said today it holds the United States responsible for the safety of an Iranian diplomat who was seized by gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms in Baghdad Sunday.

An Iranian spokesman said the kidnappers were linked to Iraq's Defense Ministry, which, he said, "works under the supervision of American forces."

A U.S. military spokesman denied any U.S. involvement in the incident.

In the latest U.S. casualties in Iraq, an American Marine died as a result of enemy action Monday in al-Anbar province, while a U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire today southwest of Baghdad.

President Bush said Monday it is a good sign the Iraqi government wants the Baghdad security operation to begin. Mr. Bush last month announced his plan to send more U.S. forces to Baghdad.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.