British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Baghdad for an unannounced visit on Wednesday and was received by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Iraqi state television said. The visit, Brown's fourth to Iraq as prime minister, follows the drafting by the Iraqi cabinet of a law that paves the way for Britain's 4,100 troops to withdraw by the end of July 2009, Reuters reported.
Amid tight security the British leader arrived by military aircraft to give his personal blessing to the agreement. During his visit, Brown said the British mission in Iraq will end no later than May 31, 2009. Brown is poised to make a statement to the parliament Thursday in which he will indicate that British troops will start to withdraw from Basra airport, their last main base in Iraq, in March.
Under the agreement signed with the Iraqi government, all but a few hundred British troops must leave the country by the end of July.