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Iraq vows to disband Sunni groups
Iraq's government has declared that it will disband Sunni groups battling al-Qaeda in Iraq after violence-wracked areas are calmed because it does not want them to become a separate military force.
The statement on Saturday from Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi, the Iraqi defence minister, was the government's most explicit declaration yet of its intent.
The Sunni awakening councils, or Concerned Local Citizens, are backed and funded by the US as a vital tool for reducing violence.
The militias are more than 70,000 strong and often made up of former anti-government fighters.
"We completely, absolutely reject the Awakening becoming a third military organisation," al-Obaidi said at a news conference.
He said the groups would also not be allowed to have any infrastructure, such as a headquarters building, that would give them long-term legitimacy.
Al-Obaidi said: "We absolutely reject that."
The Iraqi government has pledged to absorb about a quarter of the men into the security services and military, and provide vocational training so that the rest can find jobs.