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Iraqi Troops Take Over From Withdrawn Georgians

Georgian soldiers carry their gear upon arrival from Iraq at Tbilisi airport on August 11.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi troops have taken over the checkpoints guarded by Georgian soldiers who pulled out of Iraq to rush home for the conflict with Russia, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. military transported the 2,000-strong Georgian contingent back home because of the conflict with Russia over the separatist region of South Ossetia which erupted last week.

The Georgians -- until their departure the biggest foreign contingent in Iraq after the United States and Britain -- were mainly deployed in Iraq's southern Wasit province, manning checkpoints near the border with Iran.

"Right now, the Iraqi soldiers have taken over the responsibility of the traffic control point," 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Hines, U.S. military liaison with Iraqi forces at the base in the area, said in a report released by the military. "We are going to train them to be able to take over the entire patrol base, go and do presence patrols and set up temporary traffic control points in our area."

Georgia had a small force in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, but expanded it significantly last year as part of an effort to support its bid for NATO membership.

Five Georgian soldiers died in Iraq, all in the last two years.