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British Leader Rejects Call For Iraq Withdrawal Timetable


Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. He says they still have an important job to do there. For VOA, Tom Rivers in London reports.

Writing to the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he still has objectives to take care of in Iraq and therefore he insists setting a timetable would undermine those efforts.

Liberal Democrat leader Ming Campbell says those objectives have been changing from the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in the early days of the invasion, to building a democratic model for the region, to where we are right now. And in an inferred reference to former Prime Minister Blair, Campbell says Brown should start looking out for British interests.

"We have a moral obligation to the young men and women of our armed forces who we ask to do dangerous and difficult tasks, and it seems to me that the prime minister is ignoring the reality on the ground, but second, the increasingly vocal anxieties and reservations being expressed by senior army officers," Campbell said. "And there really are two questions: First is, what political objectives are being achieved by our continued presence in the south of Iraq and what military objectives are being achieved? And so far, and certainly not in this letter, the prime minister does not seem to me to have provided coherent answers to either of these questions."

British forces have recently pulled out of a base in Basra jointly housing Iraqi police and within days, the remaining British soldiers in the city will withdraw from their position in a former Saddam Hussein palace.

That will leave almost all of Britain's 5,500 troops housed in a single location in the country, the airport outside Basra.

Prime Minister Brown has promised he will update parliament in October on Britain's strategy in Iraq.

He says troop levels are under constant review and he relies heavily on the recommendations of his military commanders in the field.

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