Iraq: British PM confirms troop reduction
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Iraq Tuesday to meet troops and lawmakers ahead of his key announcement on whether he will cut British forces. According to the AP, he first went directly to a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Following the meeting, al-Maliki said Iraq will take over security from British troops in Basra province within two months. On his part, Brown said 1,000 more British troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end.
Brown, making his first visit to Iraq as British leader, was expected to address his country's Parliament next week on the future of Britain's role in Iraq. "He's going to want to discuss the developing security situation in Basra and the prospects for Iraqis taking full responsibility and the timescale for that," a British official said before the meeting with the Iraqi PM.
Britain has around 5,000 soldiers based mainly at an air base on the fringes of the southern city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.
"We are prepared to take over security of Basra within two months and we will," al-Maliki said after the meeting. "Basra will be one of the provinces where Iraqi forces will completely take over security."
Brown confirmed al-Maliki's plans and said, "as we move to overwatch, we can move down to 4,500." Brown said any further decision on British troop withdrawals would be made next year.
Meanwhile, one American soldier died and 10 were injured in combat operations in central Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said on Tuesday. It said two Iraqi soldiers and an interpreter were also hurt. The death raised to 66 the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq in September, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks U.S. military deaths in Iraq.
On Monday, Iraqi government data showed civilian deaths from violence across Iraq had fallen 50 percent in September from August.