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US combat mission in Iraq to end on schedule Aug 31: Obama

Five killed in Iraq attacks: officials
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 2, 2010 - Bomb attacks Monday in Baghdad and a town in western Anbar province killed five people and wounded seven, officials said, amid a surge in Iraq violence linked to stalled efforts to form a government. A bomb at a bus shelter in the southern Baghdad district of Shurta killed two people and wounded four, an official at the interior ministry said. In the town of Al-Garma, in Anbar province around 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad, a bomb destroyed a policeman's house, killing three of his relatives, including a woman, and wounding three others, two of them women, according to the police.

Data released by the Iraqi ministries of the interior, health and defence on Saturday showed that July was the single deadliest month in the war-torn country since May 2008, with 535 people killed and 1,043 wounded. But on Sunday the US military took the unusual step of disputing the government's figures, claiming in a statement that 222 people were killed in Iraqi violence last month, including six US soldiers, and 782 people wounded. US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence as negotiations on forming a new government nearly five months after the March 7 general election drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.

Iraqi paper sued for one billion dollars over bribes story
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 2, 2010 - An Iraqi newspaper is facing a one billion dollar lawsuit from a key Kurdish party it alleged had taken kickbacks on oil deals with neighbouring Iran, a press freedom group said on Monday. An official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which rules Iraq's autonomous northern region, confirmed it had launched legal action after its officials were accused of taking bribes. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory on its website said it was "concerned" by the one billion dollar claim against the Roznama weekly newspaper and described it as "the biggest compensation demand in Iraqi press history." The lawsuit follows a report in Roznama on July 20 about oil smuggling which accused the KDP, led by Kurdish regional President Massud Barzani, of taking millions of dollars from smuggling operations.

"We sued them because they accused us of corruption and they have to present their proof," said an official from Barzani's office on condition of anonymity. "If they cannot present proof it is our legal right to have compensation." The journalist who wrote the report, Serwan Rasheed, who is being sued jointly with the publisher of the newspaper, whose editorial line backs an opposition party, said he was "shocked" by the lawsuit but defended his story. "I depended on several sources when I wrote this report... if they say the information is wrong let them give the real information to the people," said Rasheed.
by Staff Writers
Atlanta, Georgia (AFP) Aug 2, 2010
President Barack Obama pledged Monday that the United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31 despite a recent flare-up in violence.

Obama told a veterans group meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, that he would meet the deadline he established shortly after taking office "for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility."

"I made it clear that by August 31, 2010, America's combat mission in Iraq would end," he told the group. "And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised, on schedule."

When he became president, Obama inherited a security agreement with Baghdad that calls for all US forces to pull out by the end of 2011.

There are about 65,000 US soldiers currently stationed in Iraq and Obama has ordered the force to draw down to 50,000 by September 1.

He said the withdrawal would be "one of the largest logistics operations that we've seen in decades."

His comments Monday came amid increasing violence in Iraq, with the Baghdad government releasing figures Saturday that said 535 people died in July, including 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers.

That figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.

But Major General Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for US forces in Iraq, said the Iraqi figures did not "reflect the security situation" while data provided to media by unofficial sources were "grossly overstated."

Obama said that even as militants try to derail the country's progress, "violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years."

He said the United States will maintain a transitional force in Iraq in the coming months and remove all of its troops by the end of 2011.

"And during this period, our forces will have a focused mission: supporting and training Iraqi forces, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilian and military efforts," he said.

"Now, these are dangerous tasks. There are still those with bombs and bullets who will try to stop Iraq's progress. And the hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq."

He argued however that the US mission is changing "from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats."

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama was "adopting" the program to wind down the war that was outlined by the administration of former president George W. Bush.

"So I commend the president for continuing the policies," McConnell told Fox News television. "He... continued the policy in Iraq and I think we've made progress. Although, it's still difficult there because the bombings continue."

August 31 will officially mark the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which Bush launched with the March 2003 invasion of the country, White House officials said. The transitional mission will be called Operation New Dawn.

Obama announced the date for the end of US combat missions in Iraq at a speech in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in February 2009, a little over a month after taking office.

There were 144,000 US troops in Iraq when he took office.

Along with the troops, Washington is reducing its military equipment in the country.

By the end of August, US forces in Iraq will cut back its equipment from 3.4 million pieces in January 2009 to 1.2 million pieces, which are required to support the remaining troops, according to the White House.

The equipment is being transferred to Afghanistan, US military stockpiles and to Iraqi security forces.

By the end of the month, US forces are also scheduled to reduce from 121 to 94 the number of bases they occupy in Iraq, White House officials said.

By comparison, in June 2009, US troops occupied 357 Iraqi bases.

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US 'refutes' July death toll in Iraq
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 1, 2010
The US military on Sunday took the unusual step of refuting Iraqi figures released a day earlier which showed July was the single deadliest month in the war-torn country since May 2008. The American decision to release their own toll came after the Iraqi figures showed a sharp upswing in the level of violence nearly five months after parliamentary elections which have yet to result in the fo ... read more

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