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U.S. Sees Progress In British Iraq Withdrawal Plan

February 22, 2007 -- The U.S. administration says the British decision to start withdrawing some 1,600 troops from Iraq indicates progress in turning over security responsibilities to Iraqis.

Opposition Democratic Party lawmakers who control the U.S. Congress have meanwhile called on President George W. Bush to emulate the British plan and start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Responding to Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement that the British force in southern Iraq would be reduced from 7,100 troops to 5,500 in the coming months, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq "remains intact and, in fact, the British still have thousands of soldiers deployed in Iraq, in the south, and any decisions that they make are going to be on the basis of conditions, but it is the plan that, as it is possible to transfer responsibilities to the Iraqis, that coalition forces would no longer be needed in those circumstances."

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has characterized the British decision as indicating that "significant progress" has been made in improving conditions in southern Iraq.

Democratic lawmakers said the British move provided support for their position that a political solution, not the deployment of more U.S. troops, is needed in Iraq.

(compiled from agency reports)

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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