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'UK to withdraw troops from Iraq'

A television report said that Britain will withdraw 800 troops from Iraq, roughly 10 per cent of its force.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 19:30 IST

Britain will announce on Monday that it is withdrawing about 800 troops from Iraq, roughly 10 per cent of its force, BBC television reported.

Secretary of Defence John Reid is due to make a statement to parliament at 1530 GMT.

His ministry declined to comment on the BBC report or the nature of Reid's planned remarks.

London, like Washington, has long said it hopes to withdraw troops from Iraq as local security forces improve their capabilities.

British forces operate in the south, where the population is mainly Shi'ite and have therefore not had to fight a Sunni insurgency like that in US-patrolled areas in the north.

But British commanders have nevertheless complained about a worsening security situation since the middle of last year because of Shi'ite sectarian militia employing deadlier roadside bombs and infiltrating local police forces.

Leaked documents from mid-2005 had discussed the possibility that most British troops could be home by the middle of 2006, but no formal announcement of cuts was made and that timeline appears to have slipped.

The scale of Britain's military commitment in Iraq has been the focus of new attention in the past month after Reid announced an ambitious new three-year mission in southern Afghanistan, set to peak at 5,700 troops in mid 2006.

Some critics worry that operating two large-scale missions at once could put too much strain on British forces.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 18:43 IST