Iraqi PM: Time for British troops to leave
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was quoted on Monday as saying it was time for British combat forces to leave the south of the country because they were no longer needed to maintain security and control. Maliki told The Times newspaper in an interview there might still be a need for their experience in training Iraqi troops and on some technological issues, but the emphasis was now on business links.
He thanked U.S.-led forces for their "important help" but said "the page has been turned". "The Iraqi arena is open for British companies and British friendship, for economic exchange and positive cooperation in science and education," he said.
Maliki referred to what was widely seen as low point in Britain's presence in Iraq when its forces left their base in the southern city of Basra last year for a base at the airport on the outskirts. "They stayed away from the confrontation, which gave the gangs and militias the chance to control the city," said Maliki.
"The situation deteriorated so badly that corrupted youths were carrying swords and cutting the throats of women and children," he said. "The citizens of Basra called out for our help ... and (Iraqi forces) moved to regain the city."
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