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Prime Minister Brown announces 1,000-strong British troop withdrawal

Iraq will take over security from British troops in Basra province within two months, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters Tuesday after meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said 1,000 more British troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end.

Brown was on an unannounced visit, which also was to include a session with U.S. Commander David Petraeus before the British leader flies to Basra to meet with his forces and military leaders in the oil-rich region in the deep south of Iraq.

"We are prepared to take over security of Basra within two months and we will," al-Maliki said, after the meeting in his Green Zone office. "Basra will be one of the provinces where Iraqi forces will completely take over security."

Brown confirmed al-Maliki's plans and said, "as we move to overwatch, we can move down to 4,500." He spoke at the Green Zone residence of Britain's top commander in Iraq Gen. Bill Rollo.

Brown said any further decision on British troop withdrawals would be made next year.

British troops vacated their last remaining downtown Basra base last month, accelerating calls from the British public to reduce force levels further.

Britain currently has about 5,500 soldiers based mainly at an air base on the fringes of the southern city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

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