British mull partial Iraq troop reduction

June 8, 2005 at 10:46 AM
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AL AMARAH, Iraq, June 8 (UPI) -- A British commander in Iraq says a reduction in troop numbers in one part of southern Iraq could begin in three to four months.

Lt. Col. Andrew Williams told the Washington Times the area he was referring to was in Maysan province, where more than 1,000 of Britain's Coldstream Guards and Royal Hussars regiments are deployed.

Maysan, with nearly 1 million people and few major industries, is one of the poorest of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Williams said reducing the number of foreign troops will also reduce the level of violence in the province to historic levels by removing a major target of insurgent attacks.

However, officers at Britain's Permanent Joint Headquarters, which oversees all deployed British forces, said there is no schedule for drawing down British forces in Iraq.

"Conditions determine when forces withdraw," said Maj. David Steel, a British army spokesman. "We're in this for the long term."

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