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Britain To Pull Thousands Of Troops Out Of Iraq By June

File photo of British troop casualties in Iraq. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
Britain will pull out around 2,700 of its troops from southern Iraq by the end of May, The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday. Citing a timetable for British withdrawal from the war-torn country that had been disclosed to it, the newspaper said that the number of British soldiers in Iraq will drop to 4,500 by May 31, compared to the current level of around 7,200, the vast majority of which are stationed in the south of the country.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the specifics of the report, saying: "I don't recognise the dates or the figures in it."

"Our position on withdrawal from Iraq is as it always has been -- conditions-based. We're there to help Iraqi security forces. Our leaving Iraq will be based on those conditions."

According to the Telegraph, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce the decision within the next two weeks, and it is intended as a signal of the achievements made by British forces in Iraq.

The report comes as US President George W. Bush is set to order about 21,500 more US soldiers to Iraq, according to portions of a speech he is due to make released by the White House.

Britain was the United States's closest partner in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and has the second-largest troop deployment there.

"The US situation appears to be getting worse because they are sending more troops while the British are getting out of (the southern Iraqi city of) Basra," said an unnamed senior British officer serving in Iraq, quoted by the Telegraph.

"But the situation is different, with the Americans facing a gargantuan problem of sectarian violence."

The Telegraph report said that after Basra comes under Iraqi control at the end of the spring, the British Army will position its troops at a major base being expanded at Basra air station, while a 200-strong force will remain in central Basra.

Maysan province, currently patrolled by 600 Queen's Royal Lancers, will be handed over by the end of February.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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