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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: US forces hand over security to Iraqi army in capital

BAGHDAD, 2 March 2005 (IRIN) - The US army handed over authority in several areas of the capital, Baghdad, to the 40th Brigade of the Iraqi army last week, Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials said.

The US military has already begun to transfer authority to Iraqi security forces in 14 of 18 provinces in the country. Coalition force officials told IRIN that they believed the Iraqi army had now reached advanced stages of training.

Iraqi soldiers will now be responsible for patrolling the streets of the capital in order to reduce the US presence in the city.

"We believe that it's the best choice. It will give the opportunity for the Iraqis to take care of their own country and at the same time civilians will be more satisfied in seeing their own brothers taking care of them," Brig. Gen. Brian Smith, a senior Coalition force official, told IRIN. "We will be ready in our bases for any special case," he added.

According to Smith, some provinces, such as Anbar and Salah al-Din in central Iraq, still required the presence of the US-led Coalition troops due to insurgency in the area. But he added that many areas in the capital which had witnessed terrorism, like Haifa street, Adamiyah and the Bataween districts, had already been handed over to the country's army.

Other important changes made in security include merging the National Guard, which was bearing the brunt of security in the country, into the army.

According to MoD officials, the presence of US troops in the streets was making the situation worse, but today nearly 60,000 Iraqi soldiers are ready to take on the job and nearly 30 percent of them have already started in the capital.

"I'm sure that the complete freedom of our country is very nearly there. This new decision is a very good sign for the development in our country and soon the foreign troops can leave," Feiraz Abdul Satar, senior officer at the MoD, told IRIN.

People in the capital have started to show signs of acceptance of the handover. "I love the new decision, at least you will have someone like you, your brother from your nationality looking after the streets of our city. It's really difficult for us to watch US troops looking at us and giving the impression that they own our country," Sae'ed Abbas, a shopkeeper in Allawi district of the capital, told IRIN.

Besides the handover in the capital and other provinces, nearly 2,000 Iraqi police, 46 of whom are women, graduated last week from basic and advanced training courses, local authorities said.

Satar added that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) would expand operations in the country to train another 1,000 new officers. He said that decision was taken at the end of February in a meeting which took place in Brussels.

"We are taking very good steps in our country and soon security will be a lot better and Iraqis will have the pleasure of leaving their homes in safety," Satar said.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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