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Britain to Hand Over More Security Duties to Iraqis


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says about 1,000 British troops can soon leave Iraq. As VOA's Jim Randle reports, the British leader visited Baghdad for talks with top Iraqi officials.

Prime Minister Brown said about one-fifth of the British force can head home in the next few months, leaving a contingent of about 4,500 by the end of the year.

Mr. Brown met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and told journalists Iraqi forces can take over security duties in Basra province during the next two months. British troops recently turned over the city of Basra, in southern Iraq, to their Iraqi counterparts before withdrawing to a nearby base.

Mr. Brown says it will soon be time to turn over responsibility for the whole province.

"I believe that within the next two months, we can move to provincial Iraqi control, and that is the Iraqis taking responsibility for their own security in the whole of Basra. I believe that the 30,000 security forces that have been trained up, are capable of discharging these responsibilities for security," said Mr. Brown.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the remaining British forces will be doing less combat and more training of Iraqi troops. Mr. Maliki says his forces will be ready to handle their duties in Basra and other parts of Iraq in two months' time.

Mr. Maliki says certain army units and members of the national police will be specifically assigned to Basra. He says he will dispatch additional forces to fill in as British troops leave.

Basra is the last of four southern Iraqi provinces that Britain was responsible for after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The others were transferred to Iraqi control earlier.

This is Mr. Brown's first visit to Iraq as prime minister. He is scheduled to address Britain's parliament next week to outline the future of Britain's role in Iraq.

Mr. Maliki said that future includes a strong and continuing British partnership in promoting economic reconstruction and investment in Iraq.