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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UK denies withdrawal timetable for troops in Iraq

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, July 16, IRNA
UK Troops-Iraq Withdrawal
British Defence Secretary John Reid denied Saturday that there were any timetable plans to reduce troops in Iraq but suggested the process could start next year.

On Friday, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook suggested there was a withdrawal timetable was being driven entirely by next year's mid-term elections in the US and "has nothing to do with progress against the insurgents, who are growing bolder rather than weaker." "As George Bush sinks in popularity back home, his desperation rises to cut his losses in Iraq," Cook said in an article for the Guardian newspaper.

His analysis came after a leaked memo last weekend revealed that both the US and the UK were planning to cut theirs occupying forces to a third by the first half of 2006.

"This is completely untrue," Reid insisted. "Any withdrawal is conditional upon progress on political development and security," he said, repeating his previous comments in parliament.

In a letter to the Guardian in response to Cook's accusations, the defence secretary said UK troops will stay in Iraq until the job is done. "It will not be done until the Iraqis are willing and able to ake the lead on counter-terrorism," he said.

He argued that it would be "not driven by an artificial timetable" but added that he "could envisage that the process might well start within the next 12 months."
"Ironically, if we were not carrying out such planning for our eventual withdrawal, we would no doubt be criticized for long-term imperialist ambitions," Reid further said.

HC/1430/1412



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