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Iraqis Prepare Celebrations, Security as US Pulls Back


Iraqis are preparing to celebrate what they are calling "National Sovereignty Day" -- a festive day to mark the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities.

Parks and vehicles in Baghdad and other cities were decorated with Iraqi flags and ribbons, and parties to mark the pullout began Monday evening. U.S. forces must turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces by Tuesday.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, says that deadline has already been met.

While some Iraqis are joyous at the prospect of seeing U.S. combat troops leave, others are nervous about the change in security and fear an increase in militant attacks.

Despite a recent surge in violence, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Sunday the U.S. is confident that Iraqi forces can handle the security duties.

U.S.-led troops entered Iraq in March of 2003 and ousted President Saddam Hussein the following month.

In violence Monday, at least seven police officers and a Kurdish soldierwere killed in northern Iraq in two separate bombings near Mosul.

Authorities say a car bomb blast killed five police and a soldier in a Christian townin Ninewa province. The bomb detonated as security forces sealed off the area to defuse the explosive.

Also near Mosul, two police officers were killed when they tried to defuse a bomb discovered beneath a bridge.

General Odierno has said overall stability in Iraq "remains good," and he blamed extremist elements for recent massive attacks. He said extremists are trying to draw attention to themselves and divert attention from progress made in the country.

General Odierno made those comments in an interview on U.S. television Sunday.

The United States and Iraq reached an agreement that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combatforces from cities by June 30, but allows U.S. military advisers and trainers to remain.

The agreement says all U.S. forces must be out of the entire country by the end of 2011.

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