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Britain exits Iraq

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[h2]Blair to announce start of Britain's Iraq exit-media[/h2]

[smaller]20 Feb 2007 22:59:19 GMT

Source: Reuters[/smaller]

LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to announce on Wednesday that British troops will start to withdraw from Iraq within weeks, British media said.

Blair would tell parliament the first 1,500 soldiers of Britain's 7,100-strong contingent would return home within weeks, BBC News and the Sun tabloid reported.

The Sun added that a total of 3,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of the year.

The Guardian newspaper said Blair as early as Wednesday would order 1,000 soldiers out of Iraq in the early summer, with all of the troops out by the end of 2008.

Blair would say Britain intended to cut troop levels gradually in southern Iraq over the next 22 months as Iraqi forces take on more responsibility, the Guardian added.

A spokesman at the prime minister's Downing Street office declined to comment on the reports, but said parliament would be updated first on any announcement about Iraq.

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