Britain commited to stability in Iraq – British Defence Secretary


Baghdad : Visiting British Defence Secretary Des Browne has renewed Britain’s commitment to improve the security and economic situation in Iraq.

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Britain is sticking to its commitment towards Iraq despite the planned withdrawal of its forces, Browne told a press conference here Thursday.

Britain’s efforts will focus in the coming period on the economic development, updating the airports and seaports and improving the security atmosphere and health and education services for the citizens in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, he pointed out.

More efforts should be done to combat militias and corruption and protect investment especially in southern Iraq areas which have rich resources.

The security situation in Basra sees steady improvement, he noted, voicing hope similar improvement would be seen across Iraq.

Britain decided to cut down its forces in southern Iraq from 4,100 to 2,500 and hand over the security authority to the Iraqis this spring as a result of the improvement of the capability of the local security forces.

The decision was made after intensive consultations with the Iraqi leaders, he said, hailing the decision as “right.”

Browne arrived in Basra Wednesday to attend a conference on rehabilitating the city’s ports and inspect the British troops there.

The mission of training the Iraqi security forces and enhancing their capability tops the priority order of the British troops. The 10th and the 14th divisions of the Iraqi army, stationed in southern Iraq and backed by the police forces, are capable of controlling the security situation in the area.

More Iraqi forces will be deployed in southern Iraq in parallel with the phased-out deployment of the British forces, he underscored.

However, he admitted that the Iraqi government was facing great challenges posed by militias belonging to political parties in Basra.

As for the British troops kidnapped by Iraqi gunmen, Browne said he probed the issue with Iraqi leaders who were doing their utmost to ensure early release of the hostages.

Earlier in the day, the Defence Secretary met his Iraqi counterpart, Abdul-Qader Mohammad Jassem, to mull various issues of common concern.