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Violence stalls British pullout

LONDON – Britain has postponed plans to sharply reduce its troop presence in Iraq because of recent fighting between Iraqi government troops and Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra, Defense Secretary Des Browne announced Tuesday.

“It is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding,” Browne said in the House of Commons. The British troop level is to remain around 4,000, putting on hold a planned reduction of 1,500 troops.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last fall that the British troop level would be trimmed from 5,000, reaching 2,500 this spring. But, Browne said Tuesday, “it is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when the conditions on the ground change.”

In September, British troops withdrew from the Basra city center to a base near the airport. Britain formally turned over security responsibility for Basra to the Iraqi government in December.


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