Iraq PM aims to ease security fears

Al-Maliki says Iraqi forces will "safeguard" security after US withdrawal on June 30.

    There are fears that Iraqi police and soldiers will struggle to cope once US troops pull back [AFP]

    "It is a message to the world that we are now able to safeguard our security and administer our internal affairs."

    Al-Maliki has blamed the recent violence on fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, but said they would not be successful if the country remained united.

    He made the remarks as parliament met to debate the reasons for the apparently deteriorating security situation.

    Caution urged

    In depth

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    Video: Iraq security concerns grow over US pullout
     Video: Residents afraid to return to Baghdad district
     Video: Fear of violence grips Mosul
     Video: Iraq blast mars US pullout
     Interview: Most Iraqi provinces 'safe'
     Your views: US troop pullouts
     Pinning hopes on the Iraqi army
     Inside Iraq

    Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice-president, echoed the concerns of many Iraqis when he urged "our people to be more cautious and avoid, whenever possible, crowded areas unless there is something important".

    In a statement posted on his website on Saturday, al-Hashimi urged Iraqi security forces to increase their presence in public areas, markets and mosques.

    At least 13 people were killed and dozens wounded in a bombing at a motorcycle market in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad on Friday.

    It was the latest in a string of attacks on crowded public areas across the country.

    Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament and the leader of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, told Al Jazeera: "Iraqis have a right to be scared, they know very well that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will leave a political vacuum in the country.

    "This is an irresponsible withdrawal from Iraq, because there is not much change in the political process or the American policy in Iraq adopted by the previous US administration.

    "Al-Maliki is not aware of the consequences after the American troops leave the country, he wants to deliver what the Iraqis want - an end to the occupation."

    Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, said that the surge in violence was likely to continue unless "drastic measures" were taken.

    "Always we anticipated that once there was a drawdown in forces ... the Iraqi institutions - military and police - are not capable of shouldering the responsibility. Nor will the political landscape in the country encourage stability," he told Al Jazeera.

    US forces are also to leave all cities and major towns of Iraq by the end of June, including Mosul and Kirkuk, where levels of violence remain persistently high.

    A "small number" of US troops would be left in some Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline at so-called Joint Security Stations to train and advise local security forces, a military spokesman said.

    The US military will also continue to provide intelligence and air support to Iraqi security forces.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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