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Foreign Sec, Defence Chief Statement On Basra

Foreign secretary and defence secretary statement on Basra

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, today welcomed Prime Minister Maliki's statement during the handover of Karbala province on Tuesday that Basra Province will transfer to Iraqi control in December.

"We are delighted that the Government of Iraq has announced its intention to transfer security responsibility for Basra province to the Iraqi authorities in December. This confirms the strategy of transition announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month and is firmly in line with the coalition's progressive handover strategy across Iraq.

"We congratulate all of those who have helped achieve this, most notably British and Coalition military and civilian personnel. Their dedication and bravery have brought stability to the province and have given the Iraqi Security Forces the training, support and confidence they need to take on responsibility for the safety and security of their own people. Their efforts have also been crucial in promoting economic reconstruction and the development of a political process in the province. The decision to hand over any of the provinces is not made lightly and a rigorous assessment of both the prospects for enduring security and the capabilities of the Iraqi authorities has been conducted. Following the formal handover ceremony in December, UK and coalition forces will be in overwatch across the whole of Southern Iraq.

"The transition of Basra does not signal the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq. It now enters a new stage. We will continue to train and mentor the Iraqi Security Forces and we will protect the border and supply routes, while retaining the capability to support the Iraqis directly if so requested. But the Iraqis will take the lead, as they have proved more than capable of doing in Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Maysan. We will remain closely engaged with the Government of Iraq to promote national reconciliation, and to ensure the development of a diverse and strong economy."


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