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30 April 2004 -- The U.S. military today said it intends to work with a newly formed Iraqi security force to patrol the besieged city of Al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

U.S. Central Command chief Army General John Abizaid called the plan an "opportunity" that he hopes will calm Al-Fallujah, which has been tense since U.S. forces surrounded the Sunni Muslim stronghold during an escalation in violence in April.

"What we have there is an opportunity, and not necessarily an agreement. The opportunity is to build an Iraqi security force from former elements of the army that will work under the command of coalition forces," Abizaid said.

U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt emphasized that U.S. forces are not withdrawing from Al-Fallujah. He said the new Iraqi force -- about 1,000 former soldiers called the Fallujah Brigade -- will be under the "full operative control" of the U.S. Marines.

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush said coalition forces are making progress in bringing stability to Iraq despite continued violence.

About 130 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat this month in Iraq. It was the bloodiest month for U.S. forces since the invasion in March 2003.

(Reuters/AP/AFP)
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