View Full Version : Bush And Blair To Announce The Beginnings Of Troops Withdrawals At Summit

05-20-2006, 10:13 PM
‘Peacemaker’ Blair wants troops out of Iraq next year


David Cracknell and Sarah Baxter

TONY BLAIR has instructed his aides to draw up plans for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Northern Ireland by the autumn of next year.

The prime minister believes that his best chance of securing his place in the history books is with a legacy as a “peacemaker” after his reputation with the left was damaged by the Iraq war and power sharing in the province collapsed.

Blair’s aides, including Sir Nigel Sheinwald, his chief foreign policy adviser, are working on the timetable which would see gradual troop reductions taking place over the next 18 months.

Blair is believed to be ready to quit around the time of Labour’s 2007 party conference and make way for Gordon Brown as his successor, provided the chancellor is loyal and backs his agenda until then.

This weekend it appeared that Blair and Brown had reached a truce after three months of warring between the two camps.

Peace talks about a stable and orderly transition of power are under way, with “honest brokers” Lords Soley and Kinnock being influential in the process.

Blair and President George W Bush will announce that they are to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq at a summit in Washington being planned for this week to welcome the formation of a new Iraqi government.

The process has been carefully choreographed in an attempt to bolster the popularity of both leaders, which has been dragged down by the war.

The phased withdrawal will see British troop numbers cut by several thousand and American forces by up to 30,000 by the end of the year, according to a senior defence source.

The move will be described as a “transition” to Iraqi control in deference to the new government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the first fully-fledged democratic government of Iraq.

He is expected to call for the calmest provinces to be handed over to Iraqi security forces as one of his first acts as leader of a government of national unity.

The word “withdrawal” will not be mentioned to avoid the appearance that the allies are being forced out by rising insurgent attacks on their forces.

“We agreed to do this when the new government is in place so that it is their plan, not our plan,” said a senior British official.

Meanwhile, No 10 is drawing up plans to scale down British troops in Northern Ireland. In 1994, at the time of the IRA ceasefire, the number of soldiers was 12,700; they have since been scaled back to 9,300. The plan is to reduce them to 5,000 by July next year and then further if the assembly is restored after talks between Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists.

The Bush-Blair summit has been on hold, waiting for the new Iraqi government to be sworn in, but officials are on standby to call it at 48 hours’ notice. Both leaders could do with a “love-in” combined with some good news on Iraq to boost their poll ratings, a British source said.

Yesterday the Iraqi parliament approved the country’s new national unity government, including members of the main Shi’ite, Kurd and Sunni parties. The move was hailed in London and Washington as a milestone which it is hoped will reduce widespread violence.

Three crucial ministries — national security, interior and defence — have still not been agreed. Even as the legislators met, at least 27 people were killed and 68 wounded in a series of attacks. Yesterday a roadside bomb attack in Basra, in southern Iraq, wounded two British soldiers. Their injuries are not believed to be serious.

Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, the British deputy commander of the coalition, said last week that the new government would be “extremely keen” to see coalition forces starting to withdraw “in order that it can demonstrate its own sovereignty”.

05-22-2006, 11:36 AM

Did I beat Rawstory?

05-22-2006, 12:18 PM
Well how about that. I DID scoop rawstory...