Special Report: Tension escalates in Iraq
British Royal Marines lower their unit's
flag in Basra as they launched their pullout from Iraq March 31,
2009. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
BAGHDAD, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The British army is to
begin Tuesday its official troops withdrawal from the Iraq's southern city of
Basra, a local police source said.
American troops are expected to replace the
withdrawing British troops, which were stationed in Basra's air-base during the
past six years since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the source said.
Up to 200 British soldiers are expected to leave Iraq
through the neighboring Kuwait, the source added.
Tuesday's departure is part of an agreement signed
between Iraq and Britain in November last year, in which the latter pledged to
complete pullout of its last 4,100 soldiers from Iraq by late July2009.
For his part, the governor of Basra, Mohammed
al-Waili appreciated the role of the British troops in restoring security in
"We respect and appreciate the British troops which
helped the people of Basra in securing their city," Waili was quoted by local
media as saying.
Basra, some 550 km south of Baghdad, is the second
largest city in Iraq and had been under British troops control since 2003 when
some 46,000 British soldiers poured in southern Iraq at the height of combat
operations that toppled the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.