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12,000 troops will not be deployed

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, March 8, 2009)--The United States will pull 12,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of September in an acceleration of the US withdrawal, an Iraqi government spokesman announced.

The announcement came after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 28 people and wounded 57 on an attack at recruits gathered at a police academy in central Baghdad.

"We have agreed that a total of 12,000 US troops will be withdrawn by the end of September 2009," spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.

Under a US-Iraqi security pact signed in November during president George W. Bush's tenure, US troops are to withdraw from towns and cities by June 30 and from the whole country by the end of 2011.

About 140,000 US troops are now deployed in Iraq, down from 156,000 last June.

US President Barack Obama has announced an end to combat operations in Iraq within 18 months, but details of withdrawals have remained sketchy.

US counter-terrorism and training forces numbering up to 50,000 are to remain in Iraq until a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

"In addition, 4,000 British troops will withdraw in July 2009 according to an agreement between the United Kingdom and Iraq," Mr Dabbagh told a news conference alongside coalition forces spokesman Major General David Perkins of the US army.

Targeted again

Middle East correspondent Ben Knight reports that the scene of the latest bombing - the police recruitment centre - has been a target several times before.

In December last year, 15 people died in an attack by two female suicide bombers.

Since then, security in the area had been stepped up even further.

But still, police say the bomber on a motorcycle was able to get through, plunging into a crowd of new police recruits.

Civilians were also killed.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

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