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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Plans Major Troop Pullout in Iraq

LONDON -- Britain expects to be able to withdraw "thousands" of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2007, Britain's Defence Minister Des Browne said Monday.

Browne refused to give specific numbers, but said: "By the end of next year, I expect numbers for British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower by a matter of thousands."

In a speech in central London, he said military planners had been working on a possible troop reduction for some months.

"I have been asking our planners to look at all the options to make sure we do not ask a single soldier to remain in Iraq longer than is necessary," he said.

Britain has around 7,200 troops in southern Iraq, mostly stationed in and around Basra, Iraq's second largest city. Shiite factions are battling each other for control of the city and British troops are sometimes attacked.

Also on Monday, Baghdad authorities lifted a three-day curfew imposed after the worst bombing since the U.S. invasion, but nerves were on edge amid fears of further violence.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was due to fly to Iran to hold talks amid growing calls to seek assistance to help stop Iraq sliding into civil war from Iran and Syria. Washington accuses Syria of aiding Sunni insurgents and Tehran of backing Shiite militias.