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Iraq Transition

Britain: No more troops for Iraq

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain has said it does not intend to send any more forces to Iraq following U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement that he is sending an extra 21,500 troops.

Bush acknowledged that mistakes had been made in Iraq but said he believed the military boost was needed to help "break the cycle of violence."

But asked on Thursday morning about Britain's plans, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said: "It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops.

"It has always been the case that we will make our own judgements and our own decisions depending on that series and sequence of events," she told reporters in London.

She said Britain was continuing to work "progressively" on handing over security to Iraqis in Basra, the southern city where most of Britain's more than 7,000 troops are based.

Beckett said the measures set out by the president in his speech in Washington showed the White House was determined to get to grips with the security situation, particularly in Baghdad.

"We welcome that and we hope that this joint effort to resolve this very difficult security situation will indeed succeed," Beckett said ahead of a Cabinet meeting in London.

But she said the situation in Baghdad was very different to that in the south where there is less al Qaeda activity and sectarian violence.

"We are dealing with the security situation in Basra. Indeed, we are hoping to ... give more responsibility to Iraqi forces."

Beckett played down a report in the Daily Telegraph that Britain will cut troop levels in Iraq by almost 3,000 by the end of May.

She said the pull-out of British forces would depend on improvements in the security situation on the ground in Basra. "Nothing has changed from what we have said in the past," she said.

"We will make our judgments and our decisions depending on the progress of those events. That was the case in the past it is the case now," she said.

'Job to be done'

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said Britain's announcement was influenced by the situation on the ground rather than domestic political considerations.

"Blair has said British troops will stay in Iraq as long as there is a job to be done," said Oakley. "The prime minister is under immense pressure to bring the troops home, but he is not swerving away from Bush; there wouldn't be much point anyway as he has already effectively been forced out of office by his allegiance to Bush.

"But Blair is probably disappointed that Bush hasn't followed the findings of the Iraq Study Group recommending a reduction in troop numbers. Blair also at one point seemed to back the involvement of Syria and Iran in helping to stabilize Iraq but the White House has also ruled this out."

British opposition politicians criticized the U.S. plan. "You should never reinforce failure," Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell told Sky News.

Conservative foreign affairs spokesman William Hague warned that sending more U.S. troops to Baghdad could further inflame the violence.

"We would like to have seen a package ... giving greater importance to accelerating the training and equipping of the Iraqi army ... (and) an emphasis on the urgent need to find a way of re-starting the Middle East peace process," he said.

UK troops patrol in Basra this week alongside an Iraqi policeman.



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