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Britain to Begin Iraq Troop Withdrawal in March


British officials say the country's forces could begin pulling out of Iraq next March - six years after the U.S-led invasion.

A defense ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday that Britain plans to withdraw most of its more than 4,000 troops from their southern Iraqi base in Basra. The spokeswoman also confirmed media reports that about 400 British troops will remain in Iraq to train Iraqi military officers.

The reports, quoting unnamed senior defense sources, also said Britain will transfer many of the troops to Afghanistan in order to help international efforts against the Taliban.

Officials said Tuesday that several thousand U.S. troops will replace the British forces leaving Iraq.

The British withdrawal plan is said to be dependent on security conditions in the region. Iraq holds provincial elections in January.

The British government has been negotiating with Iraq about the legal basis on which its forces can stay in the country once its U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

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