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U.S. hands over last military base to Iraq


10:50, December 17, 2011

BASE IMAM ALI, Iraq, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. military handed over its last base in Iraq to the Iraqi authorities on Friday, a day after the U.S. force marked the end of its mission in the country.

The transfer ceremony was held at the base in the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah.

U.S. Col. Richard Kaiser, commander of the base, and Hussein al- Assadi, representative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, signed over at the ceremony.

"We proudly announce to the Iraqi people today the handover of the last American military base," Assadi told reporters after the signing, adding that "Today we are turning the last page on the occupation."

The Imam Ali Base, which the U.S. military brands as Camp Adder, housed 15,000 American troops at the height.

Friday's handover came after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced to end the U.S. military mission in Iraq Thursday near the Baghdad International Airport.

Some 4,000 soldiers remain in Iraq, down from a peak of nearly 170,000 troops and 505 bases across the country.

Most of the remaining troops are to depart before the Dec. 31 pullout deadline.

The U.S. embassy, in the wake of the withdrawal, will retain 157 U.S. soldiers for the training of Iraqi forces, and another team of U.S. marines to guard the diplomatic mission.

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