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July 1, 2009

Iraq takes a step toward sovereignty

Six years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the government of Iraq set aside Tuesday as a national holiday, celebrating "Sovereignty Day" as U.S. troops, on schedule, pulled out of all major Iraqi cities - the first phase of a full withdrawal scheduled for the end of 2011. Many residents of these cities took their cues from Iraqi officials and security forces and celebrated the day in streets, parks and at home - despite the hot weather, remaining doubts about the capabilities of Iraqi forces, several deadly bombings, and the fact that no U.S. troops actually left the country. Nearly 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, providing continued support until 2011. As of today, the Department of Defense has identified 4,308 American service members who have died since the start of the war. (33 photos total)

Iraqis celebrate in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 29, 2009, to mark the milestone of U.S. troops leaving Iraqi cities, fireworks colored Baghdad's skyline and thousands of people attended a party in a city park late Monday where singers performed patriotic songs. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

An aerial view of the Imam Musa al-Kadhim mosque located in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Kadhimiyah in north Baghdad on the Karkh (west bank) of the Tigris River on June 24, 2009. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Iraqi man sits at a sewing machine as he assembles an Iraqi flag at his shop in central Baghdad on June 27, 2009. The flag maker says he has been busy to the run up to the withdrawal of US forces from urban areas of Iraq on June 30 handing security over to the Iraqi forces. (SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Iraqi security forces dance in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) #

A U.S. Army soldier from the 37th Engineer Company is seen at the Crossed Swords monument in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, June 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) #

U.S. Army soldiers from the 37th Engineer Company are seen at the Crossed Swords monument in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, June 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) #

SPC Charles Lewis, 30, of the 10th Combat Support Hospital packs as he prepares to leave Baghdad, June 30, 2009. (REUTERS/Daniel C. Britt) #

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the secure "green zone" in central Baghdad on June 30, 2009, to mark the withdrawal of the US military from the towns and cities around the nation. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man walks along a bridge across the Tigris River which runs through central Baghdad on June 28, 2009, as a sandstorm engulfs the city. Summer temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 F) as Baghdadis also endured a massive sandstorm. (SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Firdos Square, famous as the site of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue six years ago, during a sand storm in central Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) #

A member of the Sahwa or "Awakening" anti-Qaeda militia sits at a shelter near a checkpoint in the Iraqi village of Abu Basal, several kilometers south of the northeastern city of Baquba, on June 28, 2009. Sahwa fighters, former Sunni rebels who have turned against Al-Qaeda, are fearing the worst as US troops withdraw from cities, towns and villages, and the conflict-torn nation takes sole charge of its security. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images) #

Iraqi security forces celebrate in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 29, 2009. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim) #

Iraqis gather around a crater caused by a truck bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk on June 20, 2009. The truck bomb killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens more in a town south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the bloodiest attack to hit Iraq in a month, officials said. (MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images) #

A U.S. military Humvee is engulfed in flames after a roadside bomb attack in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 25, 2009. A military spokesman said approximately nine coalition forces were injured in the attack, which occurred less than a week before a deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq's urban areas. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) #

People stand by a fire at the site of a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, June 30, 2009. Hours after U.S. troops handed over full control of Iraq's cities to its domestic security forces, a car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk killed at least 32 people and wounded over 100 on Tuesday, police said. (REUTERS/Ako Rasheed) #

An Iraqi Army soldier, (left), and U.S. Army Sgt. Lou Rodriguez, from Chaos Co., 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment stand guard during a joint operation in Mosul, 60 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo) #

Men suspected in a grenade attack are processed by U.S. Army soldiers from Demon Dog Co., 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 15, 2009. Both men were detained by Iraqi security forces after their hands tested positive for traces of explosives. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo) #

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ronny Quinn, from Chaos Co., 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment stands guard during a joint operation in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) #

Iraqi workers operate the valves at the Al-Shiaaba oil refinery and the pipeline near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Iraq's second largest city 550 kilometer (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani) #

A picture taken on February 3, 2009 shows an engineer walking past the chimneys at the Barjisiya oil field in Zubair One, southwest of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq will unveil which foreign firms have won contracts to develop its oil and gas fields, nearly four decades after Saddam Hussein nationalised the country's energy infrastructure. (ESSAM -AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images) #

An official representing a foreign firm casts their proposal in a transparent box at the start of the unveiling of the names of the foreign firms that have won contracts to develop key oil and gas fields in central Baghdad on June 30, 2009. Only one contract out of seven was awarded, as oil companies balked at Iraq's rigid demands for operators. (SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Iraqi Army helicopters lead new Iraqi warships sailing to the port of Umm Qasr on June 20, 2009. Iraq inaugurated the first of four Italian-made patrol ships it has ordered as part of a plan to triple the country's seaborne resources in the coming years. (ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Iraqi Army tank patrols in front of the al Khulani Shiite mosque in central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #

Iraqi police guard Ahmed Abed Oweiyed after he was arrested in the Ghazaliyah neighbourhood of Baghdad on June 17, 2009. Iraqi police arrested Oweiyed, a top Al-Qaeda operative, over the killing of senior Sunni Muslim MP and human rights advocate Harith al-Obaidi who was shot dead in a Baghdad mosque last week. (MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty Images) #

Iraqi children look at a U.S. Army soldier during a routine patrol in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 28, 2009. (AP Photo / Hadi Mizban) #

Iraqis throw rice and dance as they celebrate on the streets of the southern city of Basra on June 30, 2009, as US troops withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities across the nation. (ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man kisses an Iraqi flag as he dances celebrating the U.S withdrawal from Iraqi cities on June 30, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. (Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images) #

An Iraqi man teaches his son to swim at a swimming pool on June 12, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. Many Iraqis were trying to find refuge from the high summer temperatures at swimming pools. (Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images) #

An Iraqi boy flashes a victory sign as he celebrates the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad June 30, 2009. (REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousuly) #

An Iraqi special forces soldier stands guard at a checkpoint during a celebration of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities in Basra, June 30, 2009. (REUTERS/Atef Hassan) #

U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Decamp, 22, from Roseburg, Ore. from C Co., 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, left, and an unidentified soldier play video games in their barracks at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baqouba Iraq, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. US troops completed their last patrols on Monday after their deadline to withdraw from Iraqi cities. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo) #

An Iraqi woman looks at her destroyed car after a car bombing in the parking lot of a police academy in western Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) #

An Iraqi soldier gestures toward the camera at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #

 
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