Sept 25 2005BBC
Iraq troop pull-out claim denied
The government has moved swiftly to deny reports that British troops will begin pulling out of Iraq in May.An article in The Observer claims ministers had privately told Japan of plans to start bringing forces home.The Ministry of Defence said troops will stay until "the job is done" and the military pull-out would occur at different times across the country.A spokesman said a handover would not happen until the Iraqi Government could "take over counter terrorism".He rejected claims that Japan - which also has soldiers in Iraq - had been given a private indication of an exit date from southern Iraq.Withdrawal 'road map'The Observer said detailed plans on troop withdrawal are being drawn up by UK, US and Iraqi officials and will be presented to the Iraqi parliament next month.It quotes military sources as saying the document would lay out a detailed exit "road map" by multinational forces.This could begin after nationwide elections in December, it says.Each phase of withdrawal would only begin when stability had improved and it would be decided locally whether conditions were right to leave.The Observer says British troops would initially remain but take a back seat after handing over responsibility for security to senior Iraqi officers.The UK would only leave the country when Iraqis had demonstrated an ability to tackle violence, it says.'See job through'Defence Secretary John Reid told the paper withdrawal from parts of Iraq could begin as early as next July.However, he stressed this was not a deadline and could be altered if "circumstances change".The MoD spokesman said Mr Reid had written to allies on many occasions to reaffirm Britain's determination to "see the job through"."We will be staying in Iraq until the job is done and the job will be done when the Iraqi Government can takeover counter terrorism," he said."That will be the start of a process of handover which will occur at different times in different places around the country."