First Published: 2006-05-22

 
Iraq eyes security handover by year-end
 

Iraqi PM denies his country is in state of civil war despite insurgency and sectarian violence.

 

Middle East Online

By Paul Schemm - BAGHDAD

British PM listens to his Iraqi counterpart

Iraq's new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Monday that local forces should take over security responsibility from foreign troops for most of the country by the end of the year.

He was speaking at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who pledged during a surprise visit to Baghdad to work with Malaki's new government - formed only on Saturday after five months of tortuous negotiations.

Maliki said US-led troops will initially hand over security responsibility in two provinces from next month, and denied the country was in a state of civil war despite the insurgency and sectarian violence.

"There is an agreement for the transfer of security under a timetable which starts in June when Iraqi forces will take control of the provinces of Samawa and Amara," he said.

"The other provinces will be transferred gradually and by the end of this year most of them will be under Iraqi security control, with the exception of Baghdad and perhaps Al-Anbar," he said, referring to two provinces that have borne the brunt of insurgent and sectarian violence.

Blair said Britain, the main US ally in Iraq, would work with the new government "to make the hopes and expectations of the Iraqi people for the future a reality".

"Iraqi people are about to take charge of their own destiny and write the next chapter of Iraq history themselves," Blair said. "There is now no excuse for people to carry on with terrorism and bloodshed."

He said peace in Iraq, which was invaded by US and British forces in March 2003, would pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

"It's the violence that keeps us here. It's the peace that will let us go," Blair added. "We want to move as fast as we can, but it has to be done in a way to preserve the security of the Iraqi people."

Maliki insisted that the country was "not in a civil war," and reiterated his intention to disarm militias blamed for a recent surge in sectarian violence.

"If we exclude terrorism and bloodletting, we can say that Iraq is much better off than compared to the old regime," he said in response to a question about whether the country was truly better off since the invasion.

Blair also paid a visit to President Jalal Talabani in a pomp-filled ceremony that included a brass band and a stroll down a red carpet in front of an honour guard.

"We are working hard to ensure our own security so we can gratefully say farewell to your forces," said Talabani after thanking Blair and the British military for overthrowing Saddam.

Blair was quick to reiterate his eagerness to one day leave Iraq. "Our interest is not, nor has it ever been, to stay longer than is wanted," he said.

"If people worry that the multinational force will overstay its time in Iraq, you are the leaders," he added, gesturing at the Kurdish president, as well as Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Shiite Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi.

A senior British official travelling with Blair said the withdrawal of the US-led multi-national force should be accomplished within four years, with a transfer to civilian control in several provinces during the summer.

He stressed that was not a timetable for troop withdrawal, and did not augur the quick return home of large numbers of British troops.

Some 8,000 British troops are deployed in and around the main Iraqi southern city of Basra, though most foreign troops are provided by the United States, with 130,000 US troops deployed in the rest of the country.

 

IS jihadists move closer than ever to central Damascus

UN confirms Palmyra temple destroyed

Turkey police raid anti-Erdogan media group after British reporters jailed

Shebab attack Somalia AU base

Over 10,000 Icelanders ready to welcome Syrians

Turkey government says it 'had no role' in reporters' arrest

IS claims Tripoli car bomb near oil firm

Dispute with Israel government keeps Christian schools shut

Kuwait charges 24 'linked to Iran' with plotting attacks

New Turkey caretaker government holds first meeting

Dozens of Lebanon protesters occupy environment ministry

Will Erdogan's political gamble solve Turkey poll impasse?

Libya loyalist forces battle IS jihadists in Benghazi

South Sudan peace deal in jeopardy

Pressure builds on Europe as refugee crisis exposes splits

Israel confirms jail for Druze ex-MP over visit to Syria

Egypt much delayed elections to start on October 17

Palmyra temple appears ‘largely intact’ after ISIS blast

Turkey to offer cash rewards for tips on ‘terrorists’

Yemen children's hospital on the verge of shutting down

In gruesome video, ISIS shows burning alive of Iraq Shiite fighters

Four years after famine, situation in Somalia remains alarming

A year on, recapture of Yazidi hub remains a distant prospect

EU leaders call for action to defend migrants’ 'dignity'

IS blows up parts of famed Palmyra temple

Deadly fire at housing complex of Aramco in Saudi Arabia

In historic first, Saudi Arabia allows women to run in local elections

Israel repels protesters with tear gas at separation barrier in West Bank

ISIS brutality in Syria: Over 90 people executed in one month

Bashir to visit China despite international arrest warrant

Egypt summons British envoy in row over Al-Jazeera trial

Yemen war seeks to stop ‘Iran expansion’ in Arab region

Lebanon protesters to government: Meet our demands of face escalation

Calls for action on refugee crisis mount after Austrian tragedy

Kuwait lawmaker describes Iran as 'true enemy' of Gulf Arabs

Two French journalists charged with bid to blackmail Morocco King

Algeria detains former intelligence chief

Kurdish forces free seven Iraq villages from clasps of ISIS

Toll in Libya shipwreck tragedy rises to 111

Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in prison

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks next week

US names ‘First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs’

Mounting death toll of security forces triggers questions in Turkey

Deadly terrorist blast rocks Karanah suburb in Bahrain

Brief truce between Syria regime and rebels collapses