January 23, 2010
RAMADI, Iraq - The U.S. Marine Corps wrapped nearly seven years in Iraq on Saturday, handing over duties to the Army and signaling the beginning of an accelerated withdrawal of American troops as the U.S. turns its focus away from the waning Iraqi war to a growing one in Afghanistan.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden held talks with Iraqi leaders amid growing tensions over plans to ban election candidates because of suspected links to Saddam Hussein's regime.
The White House worries the bans could raise questions over the fairness of the March 7 parliamentary elections, which are seen as an important step in the American pullout timetable.
The Marines formally handed over control of Sunni-dominated Anbar, Iraq's largest province, to the Army during a ceremony at a base in Ramadi - where some of the fiercest fighting of the war took place.