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BAGHDAD — About $325 million worth of projects are under way to address critical needs in Anbar province, which include the "huge problem" of providing sufficient electrical power, provincial and U.S. officials said Monday.

It’s just these kinds of infrastructure programs that are needed to cement the security gains made in the province, both Iraqi and American officials say.

Abdulsalam A. Al-Ani, chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council, said the council believes the province’s top needs include more schools, health care, potable water, trash collection, sewers and bridges and roads.

Also, "electricity is still a huge problem," Al-Ani said, noting that the Ministry of Electricity did not adequately respond to this problem in the province.

Col. Robert J. Vasta, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ commander for the Central District of the Gulf Region District, which includes Anbar and Baghdad, said electricity is "a critical area for everyone in Iraq and particularly Anbar."

Vasta said about 135 projects worth about a third of a billion dollars have been under way in the past year. Seventy-nine of them have been completed, including about 22 involving electricity.

He said solar street lights are being installed and distribution lines, substations and feeder lines are undergoing $2.3 million in repairs and upgrading. Vasta said construction began May 15 on the $21.4 million Anbar Judicial Complex near Ramadi and is scheduled to be completed next May.

And "in the past two weeks alone, 10 or 11 school projects have been awarded," he said.

Other projects being discussed involve hospitals, transportation, water treatment and sewage treatment.

A lot of work has been accomplished thanks to security improvements in the region, he said.

In that regard, Anbar province — which spawned the "Awakening" movement of Sunni tribes turning against al-Qaida in Iraq — was officially scheduled to take over its own security this week.

The move is not expected to change the role of U.S. forces in the province. Military officials say Iraqi troops are already taking the lead in most operations. A ceremony marking the hand-off of responsibility was to be held on Saturday, but was delayed because of bad weather.

Al-Ani said Iraqi government officials had to attend so "no one will say that Anbar acts on its own."

He said extra police have been promised for the province but there are still too few army personnel.


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