Declares June 30 National Holiday: Their 'Independence Day'
BAGHDAD, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Iraqis prepared for a massive celebration in Baghdad on Monday as Iraqi security forces tightened security measures in Baghdad and others cities a day before the deadline of U.S. troops' withdrawal from cities and towns.
Baghdad mayoralty announced in a statement that a public party would be held at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) at Baghdad's Zawraa Park, the biggest in the capital, to mark the "Day of National Sovereignty", as Iraqis named the June 30 date by which the U.S. troops would completely pull back from urban areas.
The celebration will be under the auspices of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the statement said, adding that singers and poets well-known to Iraqis, along with music groups will take the stage.
The June 30 date is seen as a milestone for the country's march toward sovereignty six years after U.S.-led invasion that toppled the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.
However, a spate of bombings in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities last week claimed the lives of hundreds of Iraqis, casting doubt on the ability of Iraqi security forces to take over from U.S. troops in controlling security and defeat insurgency of both Shiite and Sunni militant groups in the war-torn country.
On Monday, security was tightened across Baghdad with the Iraqi Army and police were closing roads and carefully searching cars at dozens of checkpoints that spread across the capital.
"All of our troops are on high alert. There will be no days off. They are at their full strength across the country," said Maj. Gen. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, spokesman for the interior ministry.
A few days ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki described the day of U.S. troops' pull back a "great victory" and called on Iraqi people to celebrate the event.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that the Iraqi government decided to hold a celebration on Monday, while on Tuesday, the day of June 30 itself, will be a public holiday.
As part of a security pact signed between Baghdad and Washington last year, U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq's cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 to their bases, and will leave the country by Dec. 31, 2011.