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Britain to Maintain Troop Levels in Iraq

Britain's defense secretary says his country will maintain its current troop levels in Iraq until security improves.

Des Browne told Parliament on Thursday that British commanders are still evaluating the situation in the city of Basra, where most British troops are stationed.

In Baghdad Thursday, Iraqi government officials expressed optimism about the country's political unity and security. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, said national reconciliation has been a success. He said all political blocs will rejoin the Iraqi government.

The French news agency reports Iraq's interior ministry says all areas of Basra are now under government control.

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc, the Accordance Front, pulled out of Mr. Maliki's government in August, saying his Shi'ite-led administration was not making enough concessions to the Sunni minority.

Reuters news agency quotes an Accordance Front spokesman, Salim al-Jubouri, as saying the party's return to the government is very close.

A Shi'ite party loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr left the government one year ago because Mr. Maliki did not set a date for foreign troops to withdraw.

Also Thursday, Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters in Warsaw that a shell or rocket struck the Polish embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. A guard was wounded. Sikorski said the attack will not have an effect on Poland's military engagement in Iraq.

In other news, the U.S. military said coalition forces in Iraq killed four suspected Iranian-trained militants, and captured five others, during operations north of Baghdad.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.