British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that 500 more British troops will be home from Iraq by the end of the year.
In response, his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi forces are ready to replace the departing British soldiers and take over control of security.
Brown made the announcement of troop cuts on his first visit to Iraq since becoming prime minister.
He said: “I believe that within the next two months we can move to provincial Iraqi control and that is the Iraqis taking responsibility for their own security in the whole of Basra.
“I believe that the 30,000 strong security force being trained up are capable of discharging these responsibilities for security, and that allows us to make other decisions about British troops.”
Britain has been trimming its Iraq force from 5,500 since it pulled 500 soldiers from the city of Basra to an airbase on its outskirts in early September.
Basra has enormous strategic importance as the hub for Iraq’s vital oil exports that account for 90 per cent of its revenue. It is also a centre of imports and exports throughout the Gulf.
The announcement by Brown to bring more troops home by Christmas is fuelling speculation that he may soon call a national election.