Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair will this week discuss an accelerated troop withdrawal from Iraq with U.S. President George W. Bush, according to the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday.
The Guardian reported that Blair would fly to Washington by the end of this week to discuss a withdrawal plan that would be much faster and more ambitious than expected.
The newspaper said without citing sources that Britain, with around 8,000 soldiers mainly deployed in southern Iraq, will start the handover to Iraqi forces in Muthanna province in July.
The United States, which has some 130,000 soldiers in Iraq, will start the handover process in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Other withdrawals will quickly follow over the remainder of the year, said The Guardian.
The report said "officials" hoped Britain's troops in Iraq could be reduced to 5,000 soldiers by the end of this year and the U.S. forces to 100,000, with the full handover possibly being achieved within four years.
Blair paid an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Monday to show his support for Iraq's fledging government and to discuss troop withdrawal.
Iraq's new Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said after the meeting that Iraqi forces would take over more security responsibilities from U.S. and British troops, and he added he hope that the Iraqi forces could take over most of the security control by the end of this year.