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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 19:23 GMT
Iraq welcomes US report
By Andrew North
BBC Baghdad correspondent

Baghdad
There is concern in Iraq over withdrawing US troops too quickly
There has been a welcome from the Iraqi government to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, with its Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh saying proposals that Iraqis take the lead on security were similar to their own.

In the run-up to its release, most Iraqis have paid little attention to the debate in America.

Even with much of the 142-page document's finding being leaked beforehand, the media here has given scant coverage to the issue.

When the report was being announced live in Washington, Iraq's main television channel was running coverage of a football match between Iraq and Malaysia.

But there is much in the report that the Iraqi government has welcomed.

Crucial talks

What the report advises on the security front is to some extent already happening on the ground - namely a process of the Americans handing over to the Iraqi army and police forces.

The deputy prime minister said it matched the government's view - which it has been pressing for some time.

But another politician, from the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said it was not necessary for the Americans to increase the number of troops involved in training Iraqi forces - but for them, in his words, to get more serious about it.

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Iraq Study Group report
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The US military says that things are on track for the whole country to be under the control of Iraqi forces by the middle of next year - with US units in support.

The government here has steered clear of advising the Americans in public how many troops should remain in Iraq.

With the mounting sectarian violence - and Iraqi acknowledgement that their own forces are still not fully effective - there has long been concern at any suggestion of withdrawing US troops too quickly.

And it is likely that some will be worried by the fact that the Iraq Study Group has put forward a date by which most combat troops should be out of the country.

But the Iraqi deputy prime minister also welcomed the group's calls for dialogue with the neighbours.

There is a widespread belief here that talking to Iran and Syria in particular are an essential step in restoring stability in Iraq.

Many different political figures say talking to the neighbours - especially Iran and Syria - is crucial.

But it is that point that looks set to be most controversial with the Bush administration.

In the view of many Iraqis outside political circles, this is an American debate about a problem they believe America created.




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