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British General Comments Spark Early Iraq Pullout Talk

Britain's top army chief tried Friday to soften his earlier remarks given to a newspaper in which he called for British troops to be withdrawn "soon" from Iraq.

Clarifying his comments made to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, Sir Richard Dannatt has appeared to back down from his speedy withdrawal comments. He had told the paper that British troops exacerbate security problems in Iraq and they should be pulled out sometime soon.

Britain's army chief now says what he meant was a phased withdrawal over two or three years and he also stressed that he was not at all attacking government policy.

To bolster this point, he underlined that British forces will remain in Iraq until the job is done.

Meanwhile, his comments have sparked a wave of reaction. Former Conservative Defense Secretary Malcolm Rifkind says what General Dannatt said is what the vast majority of Britons agree with.

Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell says Tony Blair's government should listen to the general.

Currently, just over 7,000 British forces are based in southern Iraq, most of them around the city of Basra.