British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he believes Iraq can assume responsibility for security in southern Basra province from British forces within two months.
Mr. Brown was speaking to reporters after talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a visit to Baghdad. He said the transfer could allow Britain to withdraw 1,000 more troops and reduce the level of British forces in Iraq to 4,500 by end of the year.
Mr. Brown is to travel to Basra later today. British forces recently withdrew from the city to a nearby base, leaving security in the hands of Iraqi forces.
With the final handover of control for Basra’s security, Britain would complete the transfer of power in all four southern provinces for which it had responsibility following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
This is Mr. Brown’s first visit to Iraq since becoming prime minister and comes ahead of an address to the British parliament next week, when he is expected to focus on the future of Britain’s role in Iraq.
On Monday, the Iraqi government published figures that showed a sharp reduction in civilian deaths from violence in September compared to the previous month. It showed at least 840 civilians were killed in September, compared to more than 1,770 in August.
U.S. military deaths in September were at their lowest point in more than a year with more than 60 deaths.
In other news, the U.S. military Tuesday announced the death of one American soldier, who was killed in combat in central Baghdad on Sunday.