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Iraqi Prime Minister Declares 'Iraq Day To Mark Departure Of U.S. Troops

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has declared December 31 "Iraq Day" to mark the end of a pact allowing U.S. forces to stay in the country.

"I announce today...which witnessed the completion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces, to be a national day," Maliki said in Baghdad on December 31. "We shall call it Iraq Day."

The announcement comes two weeks after U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18.

Maliki called for Iraqis to unite, and said the country's days of dictatorship and one-party rule were behind it, even as rival politicians have accused him of centralizing decision-making power.

"Iraq has regained its political, economic and security health within a short period of time...despite all efforts and scheming to keep Iraq isolated and lopsided," he said, adding that " with efforts from its loyal citizens, Iraq is ready to lead rising projects in the political, economic, service, cultural and social sectors."

Maliki made his remarks amid tensions in Iraq as the country endures its worst political crisis following efforts by the country's Shi'a prime minister to seek the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, threatening a frail coalition government of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds.

compiled from agency reports