London, Apr.30 (ANI): British troops are leaving Iraq today and returning home after over six years.
Britain will formally hand over operational authority in southern Iraq to the US.
British Defence Secretary John Hutton flew into Basra for a service to honor 179 British personnel who lost their lives in the conflict.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after talks in Downing Street with Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki, said: "Today we are taking steps to strengthen and deepen our relationship and to make it a long-term partnership of equals. Today marks the closing chapter of the combat mission in Iraq. The flag of 20 Armoured Brigade will be lowered as British combat patrols in Basra come to an end and our armed forces prepare to draw down."
The end of combat missions marks a major landmark in a controversial and bloody military campaign that has lasted 2,232 days - longer than both World Wars.
Britain's participation in the US-led war in Iraq has come at great human and financial cost.
The security situation in Basra province has improved significantly in the past year.
The UK handed military control of coalition troops in Basra to the US army at the end of March. All but about 400 of the remaining British troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by July 31. (ANI)