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Brown: 1,000 troops to exit Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • UK Prime Minister Brown says 1,000 British troops to exit Iraq by year's end
  • Visit to Iraq is first by Brown since becoming British prime minister
  • Brown scheduled to hold talks with Iraq government officials
  • Basra region expected to be in full Iraqi control within 2 months
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- British troop numbers in Iraq will be cut by 1,000 by the end of 2007, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday, shortly after arriving in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown walks with Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup in Iraq.

The comments came as Brown, on his first visit to the country since replacing Tony Blair, said the southern Basra region where British troops are deployed would be in full Iraqi control in two months, the UK Press Association said.

Britain has been in command of coalition forces in the southern part of the country and has about 5,500 troops in Iraq. The United States has the highest troop deployment at about 168,000.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told reporters after the meeting in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone that his troops were ready to assume command in the country's south.

"We are prepared to take over security of Basra within two months and we will," he said, according to PA.

"Basra will be one of the provinces where Iraqi forces will completely take over security."

After his talks with Mr al-Maliki, Brown went on to hold further meetings with the US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Saleh, who is responsible for economic regeneration.

Brown said that despite the troop withdrawal, the UK would continue to maintain the capability to intervene in support of Iraqi security forces if needed, PA said.

He said that the Iraqis now had 13,000 troops and 15,000 police in southern Iraq, most of them trained by the British.

In early September Brown dismissed a suggestion that a withdrawal by UK troops from their Basra base was a defeat, insisting it was an "organized" move.

Asked if an earlier exit of 500 troops move was a "pull-out in defeat ... a retreat," Brown told the BBC: "Let me make this very clear. This is a pre-planned, and this is an organized move from Basra Palace to Basra Air Station."

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Brown, currently riding high in popularity ratings against Conservative Party rival David Cameron, is widely expected to call a general election in coming days.

His announcement in Iraq is likely to be seen as an attempt to steal headlines from Cameron, whose party is currently outlining key policies at its annual conference. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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