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Iraq ready to keep order when U.S. troops pull out - minister

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The Iraqi army is capable of ensuring security in the country if the United States withdraws its troops from Iraq, the country's defense minister said on Saturday.
BAGHDAD, November 8 (RIA Novosti) - The Iraqi army is capable of ensuring security in the country if the United States withdraws its troops from Iraq, the country's defense minister said on Saturday.

"In the event of U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq, the army is ready to take responsibility for providing security in the country," Abd al-Qadir said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

He said that the fact that "the Americans have handed over control of most of Iraq's provinces to Iraq's security forces" proves that the army is capable of maintaining order in the country.

The United States and Iraq are currently working on a strategic agreement, which would set conditions for future U.S. military presence and troop withdrawals.

The agreement, which has been under negotiation for most of this year, would replace the UN mandate and must be ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

The deal between Baghdad and Washington was to have been signed in July, but was delayed mainly due to the lack of agreement on a deadline for the troop withdrawal and the controversial issue of immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and foreign contractors.

The agreement will allow U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond the end of this year, when a UN Security Council mandate is due to expire. There are currently 146,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

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