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British, Iraqi Leaders Talk Of British Withdrawal


http://gdb.rferl.org/2b4083d7-87ad-4809-b2e7-290d0a8887e2_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/2b4083d7-87ad-4809-b2e7-290d0a8887e2_mw800_mh600.jpg Britain has some 8,000 troops based around Al-Basrah (RFE/RL) 14 November 2005 -- British and Iraqi leaders have both spoken of the possibility of an early time frame for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London today that some British forces could be withdrawn from Iraq already by next year. But he said that would depend on Iraqi forces being ready to take over security duties.

Blair also expressed hope for Iraq.

"Though, of course, the problems in Iraq are well known, the political process is proceeding and proceeding in a way that gives us some real cause for hope," Blair said.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani today gave a slightly longer perspective. He said in Vienna that he expected talks on the withdrawal of foreign troops could begin next year, and that British forces could start a "step-by-step" pullout in 2007. Britain has some 8,000 troops based around the southern city of Al-Basrah.

Contractors Killed

In Baghdad, the U.S. Embassy said two private security contractors working for a U.S. company were killed by a bomb blast today. Three other people were injured.

The U.S. military said today that airstrikes have killed some 37 alleged insurgents in the latest phase of an operation in western Iraq. The military said U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the town of Ubaydi, near the Syrian border.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Ja'fari appealed to Jordanians today not to blame Iraqis as a whole for the actions of the three fellow citizens who set off bombs in Amman last week, killing 57 people.

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