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Iraq violence flares as US begins to draw down troop levels

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While the number of US service members killed or wounded in Iraq has been on the decline, according, the July death toll for Iraqis was the highest in two years. The Iraqi health ministry announced Saturday that 535 people were killed and 1,043 were wounded across the country last month, says the Voice of America.

Maliki offers to stand down

Some have blamed the recent wave of violence on the political impasse in Iraq’s Parliament. On Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sought to avoid public criticism, saying in a televised interview that he will not seek a second term if another candidate is agreed upon, Reuters reports.

"I say to the Iraqi people, to those who say Maliki is the problem, I'm ready to freeze my nomination," he said, adding: "The problem is bigger than a single candidate."

Politicians have said the choice of a prime minister is the main stumbling block in negotiations on forming a government nearly five months after a parliamentary election.

Drawdown of US troops

Also raising fears of instability is the gradual drawdown of US soldiers in Iraq. President Barack Obama vowed again yesterday to fulfill an agreement with the Iraqi government to lower American troop levels from 80,000 to 50,000 by the end of this month, in a speech that may draw comparisons to former President George W. Bush, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The US has agreed to remove all troops from the country by the end of 2011.

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