Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran blocked

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The Iraqi commander of the Baghdad security crackdown said that Iraq planned to close its borders with Syria and Iran for 72 hours as part of the drive to secure the Iraqi capital.

Lt-Gen Abboud Gambar, addressing the nation on behalf of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not say when the borders would be closed, but a government official said this was expected in the next two days.

The official said the borders with Iran would only be partially reopened three days after their closure.

The United States has long charged that Iran and Syria were allowing militants to use their territory to slip into Iraq to launch attacks against US and Iraqi forces as well as civilian Iraqi Shiites. Iraqi authorities have routinely echoed the US charges against Syria, but they rarely accused Iran of the same.

The US military in Iraq this week accused the highest levels of the Iranian leadership of arming Shiite militants in Iraq with sophisticated armour-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 members of the US-led coalition forces. Iran maintains close relations with most of Iraq's Shiite leaders.

Gambar said Baghdad's night time curfew would be extended by one hour when the security drive begins, from 8 pm and ending at 6 am. Permits issued to civilians to carry weapons would be suspended. The Baghdad security plan is widely seen as possibly the US military's final attempt to placate the capital.