British defense secretary to delay planned withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Britain is postponing a planned pullout of troops from Iraq because of the recent surge in violence.

British Defense Secretary Des Brown is telling Parliament today that 1,500 troops won't be removed from the country as planned.

Britain has about 4,000 troops stationed at an air base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The troops withdrew from the city late last year and had been focusing only on training Iraqi forces. However, a recent uptick in violence has forced them back into combat. They've helped provide backup for an Iraqi offensive that began last week against Shiite militia groups in Basra.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last year that the number of British forces in Iraq would be reduced to 2,500 starting in the spring. A Brown spokesman now says decisions on troop withdrawals will depend on the security situation.

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