British forces will complete their mission in Iraq in the first half of 2009 and then leave the country, a joint statement by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday.
"The role played by the UK combat forces is drawing to a close. These forces will have completed their tasks in the first half of 2009 and will then leave Iraq," according to a joint statement by visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki.
Brown's visit, his fourth taking office last year, comes after the Iraqi cabinet approved a bill calling for all foreign soldiers except for American forces to pull out of the country by the end of July.
Britain -- which was Washington's top ally in the US-led invasion of 2003 -- has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, based at Basra airport outside the southern oil port city.
"The partnership between the two countries will continue to take on new dimensions and will be strengthened through cooperation in all areas due to the prominent position of the UK within the EU and the United Nations Security Council," the statement said.
"This relationship of cooperation and friendship between Iraq and the UK is entering a new era and will yield continuing cooperation that will last for many years to come."