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UPDATED: 09:02, January 25, 2007
Blair against arbitrary timetable for withdrawal from Iraq
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British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday it would be "deeply irresponsible" to set an arbitrary timetable for withdrawing British forces out of Iraq.

"For us to set an arbitrary timetable -- that is what it is, and it is arbitrary because it is not attached to the conditions in Iraq and simply says that we will pull British troops out in October, come what may -- would send the most disastrous signal to the people whom we are fighting in Iraq," Blair said.

"It is a policy that, whatever its superficial attractions may be, is deeply irresponsible," said the prime minister at his weekly Question Time at the House of Commons when responding to a proposal by the opposition Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell to bring troops home by October this year..

Early this month, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed U.S. President George Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, but said that Britain had no intention to increase its troops there.

"It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops," said Beckett, adding "We're not in the same position" in southern Iraq as the U.S. in the rest of the country.

She said Britain has been "progressively handing over responsibility to Iraqi forces and to Iraqi police."

The British government, Washington's staunchest ally in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, stations the second largest number of troops, following the United States, in the battered country.

Currently, Britain has some 7,000 troops in southern Iraq, most in the Basra area and about 800 in Maysan province. Since 2003, there are 128 British soldiers killed in Iraq.

Source: Xinhua

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