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Britain Announces Withdrawal of 1,600 Troops from Iraq



21 February 2007

Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, has announced a withdrawal of 1,600 British troops from Iraq in the months to come. Speaking in parliament, the prime minister also said some British forces would remain in Iraq into 2008. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

Mr. Blair spoke before members of the House of Commons, announcing a drawdown of British forces from around Basra in southern Iraq.

"The actual reduction in forces will be from the present 7,100, itself down from over 9,000 two years ago and 40,000 at the time of the conflict, to roughly 5,500.

Mr. Blair said most of the remaining troops would deploy to Basra airbase and serve increasingly in a support role. But, he insisted they would remain combat ready.

The prime minister said the withdrawal was possible, because of increased readiness of Iraqi forces to take over control.

Mr. Blair also said British forces would stay in Iraq into 2008 as long as they are wanted and have a job to do.



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