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Iraqi Forces 'Ready To Take Charge In June'

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (left) with U.S. President George W. Bush in Amman (epa) November 30, 2006 -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today said Iraqi forces should be ready to take over responsibility for security in the country from international forces in June next year.

Al-Maliki made his remarks in an interview with the U.S. television network ABC today, according to a transcript released in advance of the broadcast.

Al-Maliki returned to Baghdad earlier in the day after meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan.

After the talks, Bush praised al-Maliki as a "strong leader" and said the discussions had focused on increasing training for Iraq's security forces, as well as a number of other issues.

The Iraqi premier today also urged Shi'ite lawmakers and cabinet ministers loyal to the powerful Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end their boycott of the government. The bloc of 30 lawmakers and five cabinet ministers -- a key al-Maliki ally -- launched the boycott to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush.

(compiled from agency reports)

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