Blair confirms UK may start pulling out Iraq troops next year
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
London, Nov 14, IRNA
UK Blair-Iraq Troops
Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed Monday that Britain may finally start to pull its troops out of Iraq in 2006 if local forces are strong enough to keep the peace.
"I think it's entirely reasonable to talk about the possibility of withdrawal of troops next year but it's got to be always conditioned by the fact that we withdraw when the job is done," Blair said.
Speaking with reporters after holding talks in London with Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, he insisted that there was no question of British troops quitting Iraq before local security services could act on their own.
"It's always been part of our plan to withdraw when the Iraqis are capable of looking after their own security," the British premier said but added that the build-up of Iraqi forces was gathering pace.
"This is a completely different situation from a year ago. As that progresses, obviously the need for the multinational force reduces," he said.
His confirmation came after Defense Secretary John Reid also spoke about the possibility of British troops leaving Iraq within a year.
"We are not saying everyone will be out by 2006. We are saying this process is going relatively well despite terrorist attempts to destroy it," Reid told BBC Radio Four's Today program Monday.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was also meeting Blair for the second time in a month, said that Iraqi troops will be ready to replace the 8,000 British forces in the south 'within a year'.
Speaking in an interview on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby program, he said that the withdrawal would happen in 'different stages as the Iraqis get trained to different levels in different parts of the country'.
But Talabani also warned that although he did not want foreign troops to remain indefinitely, an immediate withdrawal would be a 'catastrophe' for Iraq and would lead to civil war.
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