July 26, 2007 / 5:31 PM / 10 years ago

Troops could leave Basra by year end

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should be in a position to hand over control of Basra to Iraqi forces before the end of the year, the head of the British military said on Thursday.

Britain has been trimming its presence in southern Iraq and the Iraqi government is eager to assume control of Basra region, which is home to the country’s second-biggest city and the south’s oil industry.

“It hasn’t been decided yet, it will come up for consideration within the next couple of months, I suspect, but I am fairly confident that we should be able to achieve that position in the second-half of the year,” Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup said in an interview on BBC radio.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said earlier this month Britain would reduce its 5,500-strong force to 5,000 within weeks and then consider how best to remove the rest of the contingent.

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