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US transfers control of another province to Iraqis

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US transfers control of another province to Iraqis

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Iraqi authorities have taken over control of another one of the country’s provinces.

Today’s handover from US forces is being seen as a milestone in passing on security responsibility to Iraq’s government. That is because the Shi’ite stronghold of Wasit was the last province south of Baghdad in American hands.

“This is considered a national holiday for Wasit province and its people,” said Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi government’s security adviser, amid celebrations in the provincial capital, Kut.

Wasit is the 13th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be handed over. Only Baghdad and four volatile northern provinces are still under US command.

It comes as efforts continue to seal an agreement giving US troops a legal basis to remain in Iraq, once their UN mandate expires at the end of the year.