UK Iraq withdrawal may begin in March
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A Ministry of Defence source says Britain could start withdrawing most of its 4,100 troops from Iraq in March 2009 because of significant progress made in the security situation in the city of Basra, where most UK troops have been serving.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the progress made in the southern Iraqi city of
The spokesman would not confirm or deny the specific date of March 2009 cited in British newspaper reports as the start date for the final pullout, but said:
"Our position remains that we will judge it on military advice at the time, but there has been significant progress."
She said that thanks to Iraqi, British and coalition efforts,
"As such, we are now expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009," she added in a statement.
The BBC and several newspapers, quoting an unnamed senior defence source, said a force of several thousand
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was U.S. President George W. Bush's strongest ally over the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Blair sent 45,000 troops to join the U.S.-led military action but the war cost him public support.
Figures compiled through late November show 176 British forces have died in
Gordon Brown, who took over from Blair in June last year, has reduced troop levels in
Bringing the troops home could also give him a boost at the next election, due by mid-2010.
In October, Defence Secretary John Hutton said British troops were on track to complete their mission in
The Guardian newspaper said the withdrawal would start in March, and last troops would
United States General David Petraeus said this week that violence in
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