Britain to begin troops pullout from Iraq in May

December 18th, 2008 - 11:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon, Dec 18 (Xinhua) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday that his country will start withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of next May.”Britain will start a rapid withdrawal of troops” by May 31, 2009, at the latest, he told lawmakers Thursday.

“At that point we will begin a rapid withdrawal of our troops, taking the total from just under 4,100 to under 400 by July 31. The majority of those remaining troops will be dedicated to naval training,” he said.

Britain has provided the second-largest military presence in Iraq after the US. There are about 4,000 British troops stationed in Iraq, most of them based near the southern city of Basra.

British troops are expected to begin leaving the British base in Basra in March next year. The majority will leave in May with a complete withdrawal by the end of July.

The operation will formally end by May 31, 2009, just over six years since it began. A memorial in Basra to British troops who died in the conflict, is expected to be dismantled and rebuilt in Britain.

Speaking to the House of Commons following his visit to Iraq, Brown described the future of Britain’s relationship with Iraq as one of partnerships, a “normal defence relationship” focusing on protection of Iraq’s oil platforms and the long-term training of the Iraqi navy and armed forces.

All together 178 Britons lost their lives. About 4,000 Americans will be deployed in Basra after the British withdrawal.

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