LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday Britain will make a major troop withdrawal from Iraq next year, cutting its contingent starting in the spring to 2,500 soldiers.
Brown told lawmakers the plan follows discussions with the Iraqi government and progress on the ground in the southern sector of Iraq.
Britain has around 5,000 troops based mainly at an air base camp on the fringe of the southern city of Basra.
"We plan from next spring, to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500," Brown said in a statement. A decision on further cuts would be made once that reduction is complete, he told lawmakers.
Iraqi forces will take control of security in the southern province of Basra within two months, ending Britain's combat role in the country.
"We plan to move to a second stage of overwatch, where the coalition would maintain a more limited re-intervention capacity and where the main focus will be on training and mentoring," Brown said.
Around 500 British logistics and support staff will be moved outside Iraq, but in the Middle East region, to support the remaining troops, Brown said. Officials said they are likely to be based in Kuwait.
Iraqi interpreters or civilian staff employed by British forces for more than 12 months will be given financial aid to resettle, leave the country or be cleared "in agreed circumstances, for admission to the UK," Brown said.