The new British defence secretary John Hutton has made a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet Iraq’s leaders and UK troops.
Hutton, who’s been in the job for two weeks, met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two were expected to discuss the future of British forces in the country.
Last week, Maliki said British troops were no longer needed to provide security in Southern Iraq, although a few could continue in an advisory role.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also indicated the 4,100 soldiers based at Basra airport will be cut before the end of the year.
With the UN’s current legal mandate for UK forces expiring on the 31 December this year, it is thought Britain may seek a similar agreement to Washington to extend its presence.
Yesterday, thousands of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of Baghdad to protest at plans that would allow US troops to stay in Iraq for another three years.