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U.S. reduces presence at Fallujah police station

Tenet takes blame for Bush's uranium allegation

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(CNN) -- The U.S. military has reduced its presence at a police station in the restive town of Fallujah, west of the Iraqi capital, a coalition spokesman said Friday.

The move is characterized as a step toward having Iraqis police themselves.

Calling it a "positive step forward," Maj. Sean Gibson said the 3rd Infantry Division was reducing its presence at one Fallujah police station from 30 to six people.

He said Iraqi police in the city -- the site of frequent unrest and attacks against U.S. troops -- had told U.S. military officials that they could handle a greater share of policing duties.

Iraqi police also had complained to U.S. troops that their presence was endangering Iraqi police.

The six remaining soldiers at the station will work as liaisons between the U.S. military and the police force, Gibson said.

He said it has been a goal of the coalition to enable Iraqis to police themselves and to "raise their level of professionalism."

Asked if the movement of the 24 soldiers was out of a concern for their safety, Gibson said he "would not characterize it as concern."

At least 79 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since President Bush announced an end to major fighting May 1. Of those, 32 have been killed by hostile fire, and 47 were victims of unintentional shootings or accidents.

• In the most recently reported attack, witnesses said a car pulled up next to the Ministry of Justice in Baghdad on Friday, and three people inside hurled pipe bombs at a U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle parked there. An Iraqi was injured.

• Two U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi were wounded overnight in a mortar attack on a military compound in the central town of Samarra, military sources said.

• Two Iraqis were wounded Thursday when U.S. forces returned fire after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the highway to the Baghdad airport. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the abdomen.

• There was a mortar attack on U.S. troops in Ramadi. No injuries were reported.

In another development, Spain's Cabinet voted Friday to send 1,300 troops to Iraq for peacekeeping duties, Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said. They will be part of a 12-nation force operating in a south-central sector of Iraq between Baghdad and Basra.

The force initially will be under Polish command, Trillo said at news conference after the Cabinet meeting. He said that the Spanish deployment would begin Saturday and that the troops would be fully deployed and operational by September. (Full story)

Tenet calls Africa uranium statement a mistake

CIA Director George Tenent is claiming responsibility for a line in Bush's State of the Union speech that alleged Iraq was trying to buy uranium, which could be used to make a nuclear weapon, from Africa.

In a statement released Friday evening, Tenet said the CIA had seen and approved the speech before it was delivered, and he took responsibility for the mistake.

"The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound," he said. "I am responsible for the approval process in my agency." (Full story)

In the January speech, Bush cited British intelligence, saying that Iraq had been trying to purchase the uranium from Africa.

Tenet's statement came hours after Bush told reporters in Uganda that intelligence services had cleared the speech. Uganda is the fourth stop in his five-nation African tour. (Full story)

A number of Democrats, including presidential hopefuls U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, have called for an independent investigation into allegations that the Bush administration overstated the threat posed by Iraq's weapons programs during the debate over war. (Full story)

Other developments

• Gen. Tommy Franks, who recently stepped down as head of U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that U.S. troops were faced with 10-25 violent incidents a day. When pressed on how long U.S. troops should be expected to remain in Iraq, Franks said, "I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future. Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know."

• The top military commander in Iraq said loyalists to deposed President Saddam Hussein have "stepped up" their attacks against U.S. forces in the past week, and there "is absolutely no question in my mind" that slain American soldiers and Iraqi supporters in recent ambushes were victims of "professional assassinations." On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez blamed pro-Saddam Fedayeen militias and Special Republican Guard soldiers for the attacks. "The war is not over, and all the American forces and all the American soldiers understand that they were deployed to fight this war," he said.

• Fatigue, stress, mechanical malfunctions and a disastrous series of errors beset members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company as they neared Nasiriya, Iraq, on March 23, according to a draft report from the Army. The result was an Iraqi ambush that left 11 soldiers dead and seven captured, the report said. Pfc. Jessica Lynch was among those in the convoy, and U.S. forces later rescued her from an Iraqi hospital. (Full story)

CNN Baghdad bureau chief Jane Arraf, Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman, and correspondents Dana Bash, David Ensor, Suzanne Malveaux, Jamie McIntyre and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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