‘Brown readying Iraq troops for withdrawal’


London : British prime minister-designate Gordon Brown is planning an about turn in the country's Iraq policy by bringing the troops home as soon as possible, British press reports said Sunday.

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US President George W Bush has been warned by advisors that Tony Blair's successor could put at risk the "special relationship" between Washington and London by announcing the withdrawal of 7,100 British troops from Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

According to the unconfirmed report, Brown is planning to make an announcement on withdrawing the troops within his first 100 days in office.

Blair, who was unflinching in his support of Bush in the Iraq war, leaves office on June 27, and Brown is unopposed in the race to replace him.

The newspaper believes that Brown intends to bolster his popularity with the British public by the announcement.

Blair became unpopular at home for his support to the war on the side of the US.

Brown said last week that mistakes had been made in Iraq and announced an inquiry into Britain's Iraq policy. He also stressed that London would adhere to the obligations it had made to the Iraqi government.

The Sunday Telegraph said that there were high-ranking individuals within the Pentagon and the National Security Council in the US who had expressed "fears about Mr Brown."

"There is a sense of foreboding. We don't know if he will be there when we need him. We expect a gesture that will greatly weaken the United States government's position," the newspaper quoted one official as saying.

But one source close to Brown rejected the fears and told The Sunday Telegraph: "These fears are unfounded. Gordon is a committed Atlanticist who wants to strengthen and deepen our ties with America around our shared values, and who wants to persuade the rest of Europe to work in closer co-operation with America."