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Deal may be set to end Fallujah siege
Updated: 2004-04-30 22:40

Iraqi security forces took over positions from withdrawing U.S. Marines on Friday, and a U.S. official said an agreement had been reached to allow an Iraqi force to patrol the city and end the monthlong siege.

Members of the 1,100-member force moved into the former Marine positions in southeastern Fallujah and raised the Iraqi flag.

Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a veteran of Saddam's Republican Guard who will command the Iraqi force, shook hands with Marine commanders at a post on the southeastern entry to the city.

At the Pentagon, a senior defense official said agreement had been reached to form a battalion of Iraqi soldiers for a Fallujah Brigade, under Saleh's leadership.

The Iraqi soldiers' initial mission is to man checkpoints around the city, the defense official said, and the Marines will remain on or near the city's perimeter. The Marines hope at some stage to conduct their own patrols inside the city, but that will not happen immediately, he said.

The Fallujah Brigade will consist of former Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers in the Fallujah area who volunteer and are vetted by U.S. authorities, the defense official said. The official said no representative of the insurgents who are holed up inside the city was part of the agreement.

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