London, Nov.7 : British forces, which have been in southern Iraq since the invasion of that country in 2003, are likely to move out by the middle of next year.
Final negotiations are under way with the Iraqi government, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to make an announcement by Christmas, Sky News reported.
Iraq is pressing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and is in talks with the Americans about their role once the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.
The situation has changed dramatically in Basra since the Iraqi government took on the local militias earlier this year. As a result, the British presence in Basra could be all but over by next summer.
It is believed the process of handing over Basra airport and airspace to the Iraqis will begin within weeks. And American forces will soon take over camp security.
It is also thought that large security projects will be taken over by the Iraqis and Americans, working together.
Major James Gasson-Hargraves, the commander here, says the Iraqis are eager to take control.