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The Anbar Provincial Council appealed Saturday for the American military to delay its handover of provincial security responsibilities to Iraqi forces until at least the end of the year, according to a report in Sunday editions of The New York Times.

Any long-term delay in the transfer would be a blow to American efforts to portray the province, once a Sunni extremist stronghold, as having nearly completed a security turnaround, the Times noted.

The chairman of the Provincial Council, Abdul Salam al-Ani, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told the Times that the delay was needed because Iraqi forces had not yet been able to fully control the province’s borders, which touch Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. He said the delay should last until after provincial elections, which aren’t expected until the end of the year at the earliest.

"Iraqi forces are not ready to take over security responsibilities," he said.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps in Anbar, Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, told the Times that the timing of the turnover of Anbar to provincial control remains a "largely Iraqi" decision.

"There are several dates that have been discussed," Hughes said, adding that security in the province would very soon "be at a level of normalcy where the Iraqis can manage these operations, manage their lives, without us."

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