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Iraqi forces take control of country's securi -

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Iraq has reached a major turning point with its own forces finally assuming control of security in
the major cities.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Iraq has reached a major turning point, with its own forces finally assuming
control of security in the major cities. The American-led occupation is now officially winding
back. The Iraqi Government says it's an important step towards a total withdrawal of foreign troops
by the end of 2011.

Ben Knight, Middle Eastern correspondent, reports.

BEN KNIGHT, REPORTER: This was an important and symbolic day for Iraq, and there was plenty of pomp
and circumstance to mark it. For Iraq's Government this is about taking back their country's
sovereignty. For the United States, it's the day it draws a line under six years of deadly and
costly presence on these streets.

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a significant milestone in the responsible
withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, and in Iraq's journey to become a stable, sovereign,
self-reliant state.

BEN KNIGHT: While the Humvees might be off the roads, they won't be far away.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: There's still a huge force presence in Iraq that is more than
capable of responding to any incident which may come up that the Iraqi security forces ask for our
assistance. Right now though, we think that the overall security situation is trending in the right
direction. There are tensions, particularly Arab-Kurd tensions in the north that we are
particularly concerned about. There are still vestiges of Al Qaeda in Mosul and obviously we've
still seen some Iranian meddling through some of their surrogates as well. But overall we're
pleased with the trend seen on the ground.

BEN KNIGHT: Tens of thousands of US troops will remain in their bases on the outskirts of the
cities, and will be able to return if the Iraqis want them too, although there's a sense that
asking the Americans for help would be a national embarrassment.

This is still one of the world's most dangerous places, and some US military officers have their
doubts about how Iraq's security forces will cope. In the past two weeks more than 250 people have
been killed in a spike in violence leading up to this handover.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: The Iraqi Government is confident of the capabilities of
our armed forces to handle the security situation despite the attacks and explosions carried out by
terrorist groups.

BEN KNIGHT: The Americans also want the Iraqis to take on more responsibilities.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, US AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: It's a view that now is the time to get this accomplished.
The Iraqi forces have gained an incredible number of capabilities over the years, and so we think
they are ready.

BEN KNIGHT: The security handover was cause for celebration in Baghdad, where a national holiday
has been declared. But Iraqis are really looking forward to the final implementation of the
agreement with the United States, which will see all American troops pull out within two and a half
years.

Ben Knight, Lateline.