UK's Brown to unveil Iraq plans on Monday

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LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will make a statement to parliament on Monday on his plans for British troops in Iraq, Brown's spokesman said today.

Brown announced during a visit to Iraq this week that 500 more soldiers would be home from the unpopular war in Iraq by year's end.

The scheduling of Brown's Iraq statement for 3.30 p.m. local time on Monday and the publication of government spending plans on Tuesday kept alive speculation that Brown could be clearing important business before calling an early general election.

Brown said this week that Iraq could take responsibility for security in Basra province within two months, completing the transfer of power in all four southern provinces for which Britain was once responsible.

Britain moved 500 soldiers from a palace in the city of Basra to a vast airbase on its outskirts in September. All 5,250 left in Iraq are now at the base and the total will fall to 5,000 soon.

''By the end of the year British troops can be reduced to 4,500,'' Brown told reporters.

A cut in British troop numbers in Iraq was seen by some analysts as a signal that a vote was on the cards.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq was deeply unpopular in Britain.

Britain's Iraq force is now just over a tenth of its peak in 2003, a small presence compared to the 160,000 US troops trying to stem daily suicide attacks, car bombs, mortar attacks and sectarian killings.


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