Iraqi Forces Ready to Take Over Security in Basra From Britain, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Says

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi security forces will be ready to take over security duties in the tumultuous southern city of Basra when British forces hand them over at the beginning of September.

All British bases in Basra came under mortar fire over the past day — a frequent occurence in the city — the British military said Wednesday. No casualties or damage were recorded.

The Iraqi chief of police in Basra was attacked by gunmen as he exited a British base on Tuesday, the military statement said. British and Iraqi forces fought off the gunmen as the police chief went back into the base for protesction, it said. There were no casualties.

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Al-Maliki told a visiting delegation from the defense committee of Britain's House of Commons Tuesday that Iraqi forces "have already begun to take principle responsibility for the security mission, with the British forces playing the role of support when needed," according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

He reassure them of the "readiness of the Iraqi forces to receive security duties in Basra at the beginning of September."

Basra, Iraq's second largest city and a major oil hub, has seen frequent violence between Shiite miliitas vying for power, including assassinations of Iraqis and frequent attacks on British bases around the city.

Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

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