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'Assessments on Iraq withdrawal from April'

Assessments of when coalition forces can leave Iraq will begin on a province-by-province basis next month.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 04:05 IST

Assessments of when coalition forces can leave Iraq will begin on a province-by-province basis next month, British Defense Secretary John Reid said on Tuesday.

Reid, who has just returned from a three-day visit to Iraq, said the process of deciding when foreign troops will hand over responsibility to Iraqi security forces will begin once a new government is formed.

He told a news conference that decisions will be made "in different parts of Iraq at different times," depending on the threat of terrorist and sectarian violence.

The process of judging whether coalition troops are needed in certain provinces will start next month, Reid said.

He said British and coalition troops would stay in Iraq as long as they are needed and as long as the Iraqi government wanted them to remain, "but not a moment longer."

Reid announced last week that Britain was cutting its troop presence in Iraq by 800 soldiers, or 10 per cent.

He called on neighbouring countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to "support rather than impede" Iraq's democracy.

Reid said that during talks with British officials, Iran had dened supplying technology used by insurgents in bombs that have killed civilians and soldiers in southern Iraq.

Britain suggested last year that Iran's Revolutionary Guard had been the source of the explosive technology.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 04:05 IST