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Iraqi forces 'ready' to take over: US general

world Updated: Jun 28, 2009 22:21 IST

Iraqi forces are "ready" to take over security operations in the country's cities after American troops pull back on June 30, the general in charge of US-led coalition forces there said on Sunday.

"I do believe they are ready," General Ray Odierno told CNN. "They've been working towards this for a long time."

Despite a spasm of violence including bombings that have killed more than 100 people this month alone, US President Barack Obama and his military are committed to their end-June withdrawal of American troops from Iraq's urban areas.

"Security remains good, we've seen constant improvement in the security force, constant improvement in governance," Odierno said.

"I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility."

The pullback will serve as a test for the United States, which wants to move from a warlike to a diplomatic footing with Baghdad despite fears of militants and Iran.

The retreat is in line with last November's Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which set out a timetable for a complete US troop withdrawal from Iraq by 2011.

Nonetheless analysts said the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraqi cities will be less dramatic than it seems because the military, while less visible, can still intervene if Iraqi security forces appeal for help.