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Cleaning up HTML

I have a system (SQL/ASP/VBScript). Most pages have the following code:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />

Is it safe to change and cleanup to have

<html
<head>

?

What is the first tag for ?  what is the meta for ?  
Is it safe to delete ?
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