Blair expected to announce major troop withdrawal from Iraq: media

Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to announce on Wednesday the first phase withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in several weeks, British media said.

Blair would tell the House of Commons that the first batch of 1,500 British soldiers would return home within weeks, The British Broadcasting Corp. said on Tuesday night, quoting unidentified government sources.

Blair will also tell the parliament that a total of about 3,000 British soldiers will have left southern Iraq by the end of 2007, if the security there is sufficient, the BBC said.

But The Guardian newspaper, citing unnamed officials, said Blair on Wednesday would order 1,000 soldiers out of Iraq in the early summer, with all of the troops out by the end of 2008.

So far, a spokesman at the prime minister's Downing Street office declined to comment on the reports.

Currently, Britain deployed over 7,000 troops in southern Iraq, most in the Basra area and about 800 in Maysan province. Up to 132 British soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War.

Source: Xinhua

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