Iraqi PM: UK forces 'not needed'

Al-Maliki says 4,100 British troops are no longer necessary to maintain security.

    Al-Maliki criticised British troops for redeploying to the airport on the edge of Basra [AFP]

    Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, was already expected to significantly cut the number of troops in the contingent over the next year.

    "There might be a need for their experience in training and some technological issues, but as a fighting force, I don't think that is necessary," al-Maliki said.

    British soldiers helped to train the Iraqi army and navy, while a special forces unit based in Baghdad has been used to attack al-Qaeda fighters and other groups.

    Basra violence

    The Iraqi prime minister had some harsh criticism for the British military's decision earlier this year to move from their base at a former presidential palace in Basra to the airport on the outskirts.

    "They stayed away from the confrontation, which gave the gangs and militias the chance to control the city," he told The Times.

    "The situation deteriorated so badly that corrupted youths were carrying swords and cutting the throats of women and children. The citizens of Basra called out for our help ... and we moved to regain the city."

    Thousands of Iraqi security forces were sent into the southern city at the end of March to tackle armed Shia groups and criminals, with the fighting ending only after Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader, agreed to a ceasefire.

    However, al-Maliki said that despite the disagreements, Iraq was open to links with British businesses and other ties.

    "Our relationship now is good and we are working to improve it further in other fields as we take over responsibility for security," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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