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UK

Brown to reduce Iraq force to 2,500

Minister Brown talks with British troops at their base in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, October 2, 2007. Britain will reduce its force in Iraq -- now numbering more than 5,000 -- to 2,500 troops from spring next year, Brown said on Monday. REUTERS/Lefteris Pitarakis/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will reduce its force in Iraq -- now numbering more than 5,000 -- to 2,500 troops from spring next year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday.

Brown also promised a resettlement package for some Iraqis who had worked with British forces for more than a year to move within Iraq or apply to come to Britain.

In a key address to parliament on policy in Iraq, Brown said British forces in southern Iraq would be moving from a fighting role to an “overwatch” role.

Responsibility for security in the southern Basra province would be handed to Iraqis over the next two months and then a new phase requiring a smaller British role would begin next year, he said.

“We plan, from next spring, to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500,” Brown said.

“Existing staff who have been employed by us for more than twelve months and have completed their work will be able to apply for a package of financial payments to aid resettlement in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, or in agreed circumstances for admission to the UK,” he said.

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