Baghdad to pay Sunni Arab groups
Baghdad to pay Sunni Arab groupsAwakening Councils have helped improve security
The Iraqi government is to start taking over responsibility for paying members of Sunni Arab groups fighting al-Qaeda.
The groups, known as Awakening Councils, have been receiving salaries from the United States.
Now 54,000 members of the Baghdad Awakening are going onto the Iraqi government payroll.
Some 100,000 armed Sunni men are members of the groups and they are seen as instrumental in reducing levels of al-Qaeda violence.
The Awakening Councils are made up of former insurgents and the members' salaries cost a total of about $360m a year.
The first councils were formed in the province of Anbar.
Local Sunni tribes, who had initially backed the al-Qaeda in Iraq militant group against US forces, turned against it in part as a reaction to its extremist ideology.
Their successful campaign ousted al-Qaeda from Anbar within a year, transforming the huge western province into one of the most peaceful parts of Iraq.
Awakening Councils are also found among Sunni Arab tribes in Salaheddin, Diyala, Nineveh and Tamim provinces.
More Awakening Councils are expected to follow the example of Baghdad and receive salaries from the national government.
Members have often been the target of attacks by al-Qaeda-inspired militants.
There have been some concerns about whether the Awakening movement can be integrated into the national government or whether it will continue as an alternative source of political and military power.