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. British troops out of Iraq as 'quickly as possible'
BRUSSELS (AFP) Jun 22, 2005
Britain hopes to withdraw its troops from Iraq "as quickly as possible," but only plans to do so when it is sure Iraqi forces can cope with the security threat, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference on the war-scarred country, he also reiterated that Britain was "ashamed" of prisoner abuses carried out by US and British forces, but maintains its call for Iraqi human rights standards to improve.

Straw's comments on British troop withdrawals came two days after a top US commander said that the United States will start to pull its forces out by next March.

"All Iraqis as well as all the governments supporting the (US-led) coalition want the same thing: they want the foreign troops out of Iraq and they want the Iraqis to be able to look after their own security.

"The only issue is how quickly that can be done. The answer to that is that it can be done very much faster the quicker we are all able to overcome the terrorist threat."

On Britain's plans, he declined to speculate on dates.

"We want to see our troops being able to leave as quickly as possible. But we have a responsibility to the Iraqi people which is to ensure that, as we leave, they are able to take over full responsibility for their own security."

The British minister also went out of his way to stress the need for human rights standards to improve in Iraq.

Questioned about abuses involving US forces in Abu Ghraib prison and by British forces in southern Iraq, he acknowledged shame -- but insisted that should not cloud his human rights call.

"There have been abuses, which appallingly have taken place within the US field of command and in the United Kingdom's, and we're ashamed of that," he said.

"But those abuses are measured in both the US and the UK against high human rights standards. The problem in the Saddam regime was that there were no human rights standards," he said.

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