The UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the 160,000-strong multinational force in Iraq for one year, acting quickly ahead of a key meeting between US and Iraqi leaders aimed at halting escalating violence in the country and paving the way for a reduction of American troops.
The council responded to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said a top government priority is to assume full responsibility for security and stability throughout the country but it needs more time.
Al-Maliki, who is scheduled to meet US President George W. Bush in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday, gave no time table for a takeover of military and security operations. But the Iraqi prime minister said the government is committed to putting all 18 Iraqi governorates under Iraqi control - up from the two now under Iraqi authority.
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