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Iraq gov't gets control of Green Zone, US troops

 
 
Reply Thu 1 Jan, 2009 06:21 pm
Iraq gov't gets control of Green Zone, US troops

By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz, Associated Press Writer " 17 mins ago

BAGHDAD " The U.S. formally transferred control of the Green Zone to Iraqi authorities Thursday in a pair of ceremonies that also handed back Saddam Hussein's former palace. Iraq's prime minister said he will propose making Jan. 1 a holiday marking the restoration of sovereignty.

Under the new security agreement between Washington and Baghdad to replace a U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, the Iraqi government also now has control of American troops' actions and of the country's airspace.

The moves came amid a dramatic fall in violence over the past year. However, insurgents still stage daily attacks and could try to expand the fight now that U.S. troops cannot take unilateral action.

. . .

But the Americans have moved out of the Republican Palace, the sprawling former headquarters of Saddam's regime that they took over shortly after the 2003 invasion. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki formerly took control of the building Thursday and exulted over the security pact under which U.S. troops are to leave the country by 2012.

"A year ago, the mere thought of forces withdrawing from Iraq was considered a dream," al-Maliki told reporters afterward. "The dream that no one had the right to think about became true."

He called for making Jan. 1 a national holiday called "Sovereignty Day." Iraq already officially observes New Year's Day as a holiday.

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