"The success of Iraq is in your hands," US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a class training for the US-created Iraqi Civil Defence Corps at a base on the outskirts of Baghdad on Monday.

  

Rumsfeld arrived unannounced earlier in the day on a military aircraft for his fourth visit to Iraq since US-led forces invaded the country last year.

 

Paul Bremer, the chief of the US-led occupation authority, met Rumsfeld at Baghdad airport and then flew by helicopter with him to a forward operating base of the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment on the east side of the city.

 

Briefing

  

He was briefed on plans to reduce the US military presence in Baghad, shrinking the number of troops inside the city from 36,000 to 24,000 by 15 May, and the number of bases in the capital from 48 to eight.

  

Replacing them will be 12,000 Iraqi police and seven battalions of the civil defence corps, Brigadier General Martin Dempsey told Rumsfeld.

 

"This is all coming together in a pretty good way for us"

Donald Rumsfeld,
Defence Secretary, US

"The threat is moving away from former regime (elements) and into international influence, international terrorism," Dempsey said.

  

The Iraqis "are far more adept at identifying that than we are," he said. "This is all coming together in a pretty good way for us."

  

Rumsfeld observed that the Iraqi security forces will soon reach the 226,000 mark.

  

Shaking hands with Iraqi trainees later, he told them: "We appreciate your service to the Iraqi people. We wish you well."

  

He added: "We're proud to be working with you. Our only interest is to see the Iraqi people free and liberated."

  

Rumsfeld said the presence of the estimated 115,000 US troops in Iraq would "ebb and flow," pulling back from cities where they could and moving back in where Iraqi security forces proved too weak.