Multinational forces to start leaving Iraq

As PRAVDA.Ru earlier reported, the plans to withdraw troops from Iraq do not seem incredible any more as UK Defence Secretary John Reid wrote to Tony Blair in a secret paper that many of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq are set to be brought home within three months, with most of the rest returning six months later.

Iraq's prime minister confirmed that the process of withdrawal is the question of the near future. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Tuesday that U.S. and other foreign troops could begin handing over security to Iraqis in selected cities, although he opposes a timetable for the complete withdrawal of multinational forces at this time.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the comment to reporters alongside U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who arrived Tuesday from Jordan, where he and Iraqi officials signed four economic agreements on Monday.

According to the AP, al-Jaafari said he opposed such a timetable "when we are not ready" to assume responsibility for defending the country against the insurgents. However, al-Jaafari added that security in many of Iraq's 18 provinces has improved so that Iraqi forces could assume the burden of maintaining order in cities there.

"We can begin with the process of withdrawing multinational forces from these cities to outside the city as a first step that encourages setting a timetable for the withdrawal process," al-Jaafari said. "We don't want to be surprised by a decision to withdraw at a time when we are not ready."

The U.S. Defense Department is anxious to pull some of its 135,000 troops out of Iraq in 2006, partly because the mission here is stretching the Army and Marine Corps perilously thin as casualties mount. U.S. commanders believe the presence of a large U.S. force is generating tacit support for anti-American violence.

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