UK Defence Secretary says troops may be pulled out by 2009

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London, Oct.20 : British Defence Secretary John Hutton, who is currently on his first visit to Iraq, has said that all British troops could be pulled out of that country by 2009.

Speaking after talks in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the, Hutton said that Britain is likely to undertake a "fundamental change" in its role in Iraq in the first months of 2009.

This included the possibility of the military taking on a training role, The Telegraph quoted Hutton, as saying.

He hailed the "significant progress" that had been made in Iraq in recent months, and welcomed the improvement in the security situation across the country.

After his meeting, the Defence Secretary went on to speak to members of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment and other UK service personnel based in the Baghdad Support Unit.

Hutton is due to travel on to Basra, where most of the 4,000 British troops stationed in Iraq are based.

Negotiations are under way to agree a security deal on the future of British and American forces in Iraq after the current mandate runs out at the end of the year.

However, Prime MInister Gordon Brown has repeatedly refused to set out a timetable for withdrawal.

A spokesman for the Iraqi leader said: "Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq will form a negotiating team to discuss the future of the presence of British forces in Iraq.

ANI

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