» Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Iraq and Troops

Asked, with regard to PMQs today, if there was any indication of an announcement of a timetable for Basra in general, the PMOS said that Operation Sinbad was just over half way through, progress had been made though the situation on the ground was not ideal.  However, as a result of the work of our police training teams nearly 55 per cent of Basra city’s police stations were up to the standard required; this is compared to 20 per cent last September.  The murder rate in Basra has reduced from 139 reported in June to 29 reported this December.  Reconstruction programmes in Basra are evident with the refurbishment of 176 schools, refurbishment of 3 hospitals and a further 8 primary health clinics, refurbishment of a pharmacy, an orphanage and 30 football pitches.  These are all in addition to road and bridge repairs in the region. 

Any decision about troops in the future would be based on the position in Basra.  90 per cent of all violence in Iraq is in Baghdad.  All decisions for us are driven by what is happening on the ground in Basra. 

Asked if the US were sending more troops into Iraq following President Bush’s statement this evening would we take our troops out of Iraq as whatever the President said had no bearing on our decision, the PMOS said that all decisions regarding troops would be based on the conditions on the ground in Basra, and the views of the Iraqi government first and foremost.

Asked if the Prime Minister’s lecture on defence tomorrow would be in a response to President Bush’s speech tonight, the PMOS said no.  The Prime Minister was still writing his speech but it would be a strategic history and overview of defence, not new material on Iraq or a response to what President Bush may say tonight.  We had not been waiting for President Bush to set out the position in Iraq, the Prime Minister’s speech will be in general terms. 

Asked if US troop numbers in Baghdad had any bearing on UK troop numbers the PMOS said that again decisions were based on conditions on the ground.  Asked if the withdrawal of troops meant withdrawal to the UK or to barracks in Basra the PMOS reminded reporters not to get ahead of themselves.  Asked if the spring timetable, mentioned by the Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was a strong possibility the PMOS said that it was possible but it would proceed on a factual basis depending on conditions on the ground. 

Asked if that meant that British troops could withdraw entirely, the PMOS said that the decision would take into account what the situation was like on the ground, what Iraq Government wanted and discussions with Coalition troops.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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