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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
UK makes pledge on Iraq handover
Margaret Beckett

The handover of security responsibility in Iraq from British to local forces will continue, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said.

Mrs Beckett, in Iraq on a fact-finding mission, met the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, in Baghdad.

Afterwards, she said it was "absolutely key" that the elected Iraqi government was seen to be taking responsibility.

Meanwhile, Iraq's parliament has voted to extend the country's state of emergency for a further 30 days.

The measure, which has been in place for two years, allows for night-time curfews and gives the authorities extra powers, including the ability to make arrests without warrants.

'Rebuilding Iraq'

Britain transferred control of Muthana province in July and Dhi Qar is expected to follow this month.

This would leave only Basra and Maysan provinces in British hands.

This is an enduring partnership to defeat terrorism
Barham Saleh

Mrs Beckett said: "There has been responsibility that has been transferred already, we hope and believe that that is a process that will continue."

She said it was "vital to the future of the people of Iraq that this government succeeds, because there will certainly never be a better chance to rebuild a better Iraq".

Mr Saleh said Iraqis would be "increasingly in the lead" as far as security was concerned.

"But this is an enduring partnership to defeat terrorism," he added.

Mrs Beckett is making her first visit to Iraq since taking office.

The Iraqi people are far worse off today
William G Steele, Macungie, Pennsylvania

She is due to meet Prime Minister Nouri Maliki later and said she would not be limited to talking about the security situation, and intended to tackle issues such as the country's economy.

Shortly after meeting Mrs Beckett, Mr Saleh left on a visit to Iran to develop ties with Tehran ahead of a planned visit there by Mr Maliki.

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