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An Iraqi boy hurls a stone at a burning British vehicle in Al-Basrah in mid-October (epa) November 22, 2006 -- British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett today said British forces could transfer control of the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah to the Iraqi government early next year.

Beckett told parliament that there was "confidence" that Iraqi forces are ready to assume responsibility for security in the city.

She said the process of transferring responsibility was "well under way," adding that Al-Najaf, another southern city, is set to be transferred next month.

(AFP, dpa)

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