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PM: Iraqi troops battle-ready in 2007

Saddam Hussein's wanted nephew arrested in Lebanon
Recruits from Baghdad drill in April at the New Iraqi Army Regional Training Center in Kirkuk.



• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi troops will be able to handle security in all 18 provinces by the end of 2007 with additional training and equipment, the country's new prime minister says.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki offered that forecast during a meeting Wednesday with Denmark's prime minister, according to a statement from the Iraqi leader's office.

It is the second time in a week that al-Maliki has discussed a timeline for the handover of security responsibilities to Iraqi troops -- a development that President Bush has said would enable U.S. troops to leave.

With more training and better equipment "our security forces will be capable of taking over the security portfolio in all Iraqi provinces within one year and a half," al-Maliki said during the meeting with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Denmark has about 500 troops in Iraq, based in the south.

More than 130,000 U.S. troops and more than 7,000 British troops remain in Iraq to provide security for al-Maliki's fledgling government, the first permanent administration since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

During a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday, al-Maliki said his government could take over security for 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces by the end of this year. The exceptions were Baghdad and the sprawling western province of Anbar, where U.S. troops are battling a stubborn insurgency.

Blair is scheduled to meet with Bush on Thursday in Washington, and the president said Wednesday that U.S. commanders will be making "a new assessment" of the need for American troops now that the permanent government led by al-Maliki has taken power. (Watch how Iraq has taken toll on Blair, Bush -- 2:39)

White House spokesman Tony Snow tried to dampen expectations that Bush and Blair would announce any troop withdrawals, but he said U.S. and allied troops would increasingly take on a supporting role for Iraqi forces.

"I do not believe that you're going to hear the president or the prime minister say we're going to be out in one year, two years, four years," Snow said.

Tortured victims found

Four slain bodies were discovered in Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

The four bodies found in various neighborhoods were the latest of hundreds that have been dumped throughout the capital in the three months since an attack on a Shiite mosque in Samarra sparked Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence.

All of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head. Two of the bodies showed signs of torture and were found with the hands bound.

A day earlier, at least four bodies were found at various sites across Baghdad. All had been shot in the head and showed signs of torture, police said.

Nephew accused of 'many crimes'

A nephew of Saddam Hussein was arrested in Beirut, Lebanon, by Iraqi security services, with the help of Interpol, according to the office of Iraq's prime minister Wednesday. Bashar Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti was one of Iraq's most-wanted men.

The office, when contacted by CNN, would not say when the arrest happened or specify what charges Bashar Sabawi, 35, faces.

Sabawi was wanted "because of the many crimes committed against the innocent Iraqi people during and after the ex-dictatorial regime," a press release said.

"Capturing the criminal Bashar Sabawi represents an important intelligence success for our security services," the press release stated.

"The Iraqi Security Forces will continue to work toward pursuing all loyalists to the previous regime who fled abroad and bringing them to face justice."

Sabawi's father, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, served as presidential adviser to his half-brother Saddam Hussein, and was No. 36 and the six of diamonds on the U.S. card deck list of the 55 "most wanted" Iraqis.

Syria turned over Sabawi Ibrahim to Iraq in February 2005.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report

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