As promised in this morning’s papers, Gordon Brown has formally announced the timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq next summer, saying that good progress has been made in the areas of security, democracy and reconstruction in the country.

Iraq will regain full sovereignty on the expiry of UN resolution 1790 on New Year’s Day, and as of 31st May there will be a "rapid withdrawal" of the remaining 4,100 British combat troops over the following two months. After 31st July, 400 troops will remain, principally dedicated to naval training.

He also said that the memorial wall to the fallen British servicemen in Basra would be brought to Britain and put in a fitting place.

David Cameron welcomed the statement and joined the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the bravery of our servicemen who have served there, especially the 178 who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Mr Cameron asked that the Government strike a realistic tone over
what has been achieved in Iraq, given that "the daily reality for many
Iraqis remains dire" and sought reassurances about the Iraqi economic
situation and the relationships the country is likely to enjoy with its
neighbours over the coming years.

He also reiterated the call made by William Hague at yesterday’s
PMQs for a full-scale independent inquiry into the conduct and planning
of the war. He said that he did not feel that it had to wait until all
troops had returned home, since similar inquiries had taken place
before in those circumstances and that since 400 troops were remaining
in Iraq after July in any case, it could be delayed indefinitely.

Jonathan Isaby

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