Prime Minister announces withdrawal of Iraq troops

Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced plans to withdraw 1,600 British troops from Iraq over the coming months.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Blair announced that the number of British troops serving in Iraq would be reduced from 7,100 to 5,500 soon.

However, some soldiers will remain stationed at Basra air base in order to help secure supply routes and the Iraq/Iran border and support the Iraqis into 2008.

Mr Blair said that British soldiers would remain in Iraq "as long as we are wanted" and had a job to do.

The Prime Minister told the Commons that the problem remained "formidable" in Iraq, but said that the numbers of murders and kidnappings had now dropped and reconstruction was under way.

He said: "What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be, but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra's history can be written by Iraqis."

The announcement comes as the US announced plans to send a further 21,500 US troops into Iraq.

The Conservatives welcomed the announcement. Party leader David Cameron said that the Prime Minister's statement "will be welcome in this House, in the country, and especially to the families of those serving in Iraq over the coming months".


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