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British Troops to Complete Iraq Mission in 2009


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says British troops will complete their mission in Iraq by May 31, 2009, and will leave the country by the end of July.

Mr. Brown and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made a joint statement in Baghdad Wednesday after a previously unannounced meeting between the two leaders.

The prime ministers said their countries' partnership will "take on new dimensions" after British forces leave. Britain now has about 4,100 troops in Iraq.

In violence Wednesday, Iraqi police say a double-bombing near a traffic police station in central Baghdad has killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50 others.

The U.S. military in Iraq says only one bomb exploded and the second one was dismantled. It also reports a lower death toll, nine fatalities in total, including two policemen and seven civilians.

Conflicting casualty figures are not uncommon in Iraqi attacks.

And the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at visiting U.S. President George Bush remains in custody in Baghdad. The brother of journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi says he was informed that the television reporter appeared before a judge Wednesday.

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