LONDON, Dec 12 (KUNA) -- British forces will hand over Basra province to
Iraqi control this Sunday, 16 December, their spokesman in the country
Major Mike Shearer told BBC radio the announcement of the date by the Iraqi
authorities was "a very positive step in the right direction".
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said when he visited Basra last weekend
that the transfer of the final province under UK control would happen within
It paves the way for the remaining 4,500 British troops to focus on
training local forces before UK numbers dwindle to 2,500 from the Spring.
Major Shearer said "We absolutely welcome the announcement that we are
going to move to Iraqi provincial control on the 16th".
"That is a very positive step in the right direction and clear recognition
that the security situation is such that the Iraqi security forces are able to
take on that responsibility".
The announcement of the date came as a series of car bombs exploded in the
southern city of Amarah, killing at least 26 people.
Amarah is in the usually quiet Maysan province which was handed over by
British forces to domestic security control last April.
Major Shearer said "I am absolutely confident ... that the Iraqi security
forces here in Basra are ready to take on responsibility for policing their
Brown hailed a 90 percent reduction in violence in Basra in recent months
in the House of Commons today, shortly before the announcement.
"So, instead of the British forces having to engage in a combat role, we
will be, over time, engaged in a training role supporting the Iraqi forces",
he told MPs.
"Over these last few months 50,000 people have been trained up as both
police and security forces", Brown added. (end)
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