Basra Handover "In Two Weeks" Says British Leader
Basra handover "in two weeks" - PM
The Prime Minister has announced that Basra will be handed back to Iraqi control within two weeks. Mr Brown made the announcement whilst on a surprise visit to troops in Iraq.
Addressing servicemen at Basra air station, Mr Brown revealed that he had just spoken to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki who approved the handover.
The Iraqi PM is recommending that British troops move to provincial Iraqi control within two weeks, Mr Brown said.
The remaining 4,500 British troops will focus more on training local Iraqi forces, before UK numbers reduce to 2,500 from the spring. There are now 30,000 Iraqi police and armed forces in the region.
The Prime Minister added that Iraq is now in a "far better position" thanks to the efforts of British personnel.
He told them:
"I know many of you will not be home for Christmas but I do appreciate the spirit of service that means you are serving here the national interest at Christmas time.
"Let me wish you a happy Christmas, say you have achieved great things during the course of the year, pay tribute to your professionalism, your courage and your patriotism and wish all of you well in the new year ahead. The whole British people are proud of everything you have achieved"
After addressing the troops Mr Brown went into private talks with senior British commanders at the base, headquarters of Multi-National Division South East of the international forces in Iraq.