'UK to withdraw troops from Iraq by June'
The British government is preparing to withdraw all troops from Iraq by next June, newspaper reports in London said on Wednesday.world Updated: Dec 10, 2008 09:31 IST
The British government is preparing to withdraw all troops from Iraq by next June, newspaper reports in London said on Wednesday.
Citing a senior defence source, The Guardian said Britain would start the pull-out in March, and the last troops will leave Basra in southern Iraq by June. The Daily Mail also reported Britain would withdraw by June.
The Guardian says that instead of handing over to the Iraqi authorities, the British will be replaced at Basra air base by several thousand US troops
The majority of the 4,000 British troops in Iraq are now confined to the air base and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government has previously signalled they would start pulling out in January.
Ministers have spoken of a "fundamental change of mission" in 2009, and this was reiterated by the Ministry of Defence.
"Significant progress has been made in Basra, a city which has now been transformed thanks to Iraqi, coalition and British efforts," a spokeswoman said in response to the media reports of a June pull-out.
"As such, we are now expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009."
British troops have been in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.