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US: Obama warns of more 'senseless' violence in Iraq

Tue Aug 18 04:55:24 EST 2009

PHOENIX, Arizona, Aug 17 AFP - President Barack Obama warned Monday that Iraqis would be tested by more "senseless" violence but vowed the United States would meet its deadline to pull out all troops by the end of 2011.

"As Iraqis take control of their destiny, they will be tested and targeted," Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars organisation in the southwestern state of Arizona.

"Those who seek to sow sectarian division will attempt more senseless bombings and more killing of innocents. This we know," he said.

Violence has fallen overall in Iraq, but attacks are continuing and three separate incidents in north and central Iraq on Monday killed at least eight people and wounded more than 40.

Attacks have targeted security forces and civilians, with many directed at specific ethnic and religious groups.

"But as we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments," Obama said.

"The American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy, we will begin removing our combat brigades from Iraq later this year.

"We will remove all our combat brigades by the end of next August. And we will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq war will end."

The number of violent deaths in Iraq fell by a third last month to 275 from 437 in June, following the pullout of US forces from urban areas. The figure for May was 155, the lowest of any month since the US-led invasion of 2003.

Under the terms of a security agreement signed by both countries, US troops are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, but Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Monday that the accord would be put to a referendum vote in January.

If Iraqi voters reject the agreement, the accord would automatically terminate in one year, bringing forward the deadline for US troop withdrawal to January 2011.