Addressing parliament Thursday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled the specifics of next year's British military withdrawal from Iraq after what will be six years of deployment.
Mr. Brown said after consultations with his Iraqi counterpart, the bulk of British forces will be out of southern Iraq by the end of July with just a few hundred left to assist in naval training duties.
Brown pays tribute to British troops
In a lively House of Commons session, Prime Minister Brown paid tribute to the British personnel who have served in Iraq. Opposition politicians did as well. But with the deployment now winding down, people like Conservative leader David Cameron are urging Mr. Brown to open an inquiry into why Britain went to war in the first place and its role in Iraq through the years.
"What we need surely is a robust, independent inquiry with power and membership comparable to the Franks' inquiry into the Falkland's war. Should it not examine the origins and conduct of the war in their entirety and be able to question minister including all the members of the war cabinet? Will the prime minister give a commitment today to set up such an inquiry so we can learn from the mistakes that were made? Does he not agree with me it is just one, just one of the many things that we owe to our brave armed forces?" he asked.
PM rejects Conservatives' demand for Iraq war inquiry
Mr. Brown responded by once again rejecting an early inquiry. He said that cannot be considered until all British forces are out of the country.
He also reiterated that Britain was right to have entered the conflict.
"As we leave, the Iraqi forces are strong enough both to maintain order in the Basra area and to have policing services which while not ideal are sufficient for the task. Of course there are very difficult days ahead for Iraq. It has still got a great deal of work to do as he has said rebuilding its economy but I believe we have made a very significant contribution to it," said Brown.
Liberals ask 'was the war worth it?'
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said the British people demand answers to what he said was an illegal war.
"The inquiry should be open. It should be held in public because it is the public who need to see and hear that lessons really are being learned. The government must not end this war as they started it, in secret unaccountable, behind closed doors," he said. "But does the prime minister agree with me, does the prime minister..." Clegg asked.
"Let the right honorable gentleman speak," interjected the Speaker.
"Of course they do not want to be reminded of the past because they refuse to learn the lessons about the future," Clegg continued.
Mr. Brown again said he believed the war was worth it.
"I think people can be proud today Iraq is in a far better position than it was five years ago," the prime minister said.
178 British service personnel have so far died in Iraq. A memorial honoring them will be brought from Iraq to Britain once the last troops depart for home.