Brown says Britain ready to cut troops in Iraq, but gives no timetable 2008-07-20 00:11:14   Print

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, July 19, 2008.(Xinhua/AFP Photo)
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    BAGHDAD, July 19 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday that his country wants to cut its troops in Iraq without setting a timetable for their withdrawal.

    "Our intention is to reduce our troop numbers but I am not going to give an artificial timetable for the moment," Brown told reporters after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki.

    "Our test is that how are we meeting the objectives that we have set and what progress can we show?" he said.

    Later at a news conference, Brown said that his country has four stages which are crucial to progress in Iraq in general and in Basra in particular.

    "We have set four clear objectives for our areas where we have responsibility," Brown said.

    "The first is to train Iraqi security forces so that they can be in a position to take full responsibility for the security of Iraqis and for the area," he said.

    "The second stage is to push forward the local government elections," he added.

    "The third is to pursue the economic and social development in Basra, so that the people can enjoy prosperity and find jobs," Brown said.

    "And the fourth is the Basra airport. It will be transferred, when it can be, from military to civilian use," Brown said before heading to Basra in southern the country.

    Earlier in the day, Brown made an unannounced visit to Baghdad to meet top Iraqi leaders.

    A statement by the Iraqi government said earlier that Brown will meet the Iraqi leaders, including his counterpart Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, to discuss bilateral relations along with studying "the future of the British troops' presence in Iraq's southern city of Basra.

    Saturday's visit is Brown's third one here since taking over from Tony Blair as prime minister on June 27 last year.

    Britain currently has some 4,000 troops in southern Iraq, mostly based near the city of Basra, some 550 km south of Baghdad.

    The visit comes two days after Maliki and U.S. President George W. Bush stressed in a phone conversation the importance of achieving a timetable to hand over security control to the Iraqi security troops so as to lay the ground for the pullout of the U.S. forces.

Special report: Tension escalates in Iraq

Editor: Yan Liang
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