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Britain confirms security in Muthana to be handed over
Australia and Japan will also transfer responsibility in Iraqi province
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-19 21:14 (KST)   
LONDON

Britain, Australia and Japan will hand over responsibility for security in Iraq's southern Muthana province to Iraqi forces, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Monday.

Blair's official spokesman did not specify when the handover would occur, but said Iraq would take control of both civil institutions and security in the province as troops from Australia, Britain and Japan continue moving toward a support role.

"It is a significant step on the way to Iraq taking control of its own destiny, and therefore we welcome it," the spokesman said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.

Britain has about 170 troops in the province. They may be redeployedto other areas of Iraq rather than brought home when they leave Muthana, the Ministry of Defense said.

Japan has about 600 troops doing humanitarian work in Muthana's capital, Samawah, and they are guarded by about 460 Australian soldiers.

British Defense Secretary Des Browne has acknowledged that Maysan province, where Britain has 1,000 troops, is likely to be handed over soon after the transfer in Muthana.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced shortly after taking office on May 20 that Iraqi security forces would start assuming full responsibility for some provinces and cities this month, beginning an 18-month process leading to the eventual withdrawal of all coalition forces.

News reports in Japan said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would announce the withdrawal of the country's troops from Iraq on Tuesday, but he says he has not yet decided when to bring Japanese soldiers home.
BETH GARDINER
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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