Labour In Brighton: Blair dashes hopes that UK soldiers may leave Iraq early

Ministers told The Independent that British troops were unlikely to take on a different role in Iraq before next summer - and would then gradually hand over frontline duties to the Iraqi army and police before a staged withdrawal was contemplated at a later date. Despite growing pressure to set a date for troops to return home, ministers insisted that such a deadline would not be set.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, dismissed a report that British troops would start a major withdrawal from Iraq next May, but said moves towards their withdrawal could start next year. He told Sky News: "There will then be a process - it won't happen overnight - where they gradually take the lead, we gradually withdraw to barracks and we gradually withdraw from Iraq itself. At that stage, when the conditions have been met, we will withdraw. It is possible to start in some parts of the country, that handover, in the course of next year."

Mr Blair told BBC's Sunday AM programme that there was no "arbitrary date being set" for withdrawing troops. The Prime Minister admitted he had underestimated the insurgency, but insisted his strategy was right. "I didn't expect quite the same ferocity from every single element in the Middle East that came in and was doing their best to disrupt the political process," he said. "But I have absolutely no doubt as to what we should do. We should stick with it." He added: "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that what is happening in Iraq now is crucial for our own security. Never mind the security of Iraq or the greater Middle East. It is crucial for the security of the world. If they are defeated, this type of global terrorism and insurgency in Iraq, we will defeat them everywhere."

Mr Blair received a boost last night when grassroots Labour activists failed in an attempt to secure a special debate on the Iraq crisis at the party conference in Brighton. Labour officials said there was "no great clamour" over Iraq after constituency Labour parties instead voted for urgent debates on the National Health Service, gay rights, housing and pensions. But concerns over Iraq may still surface in a foreign affairs debate on Wednesday.

Eight local parties expressed concern at the violence in Iraq when they called for a debate. But only three called for an early date for the withdrawal of troops, saying they should not remain beyond December, when the United Nations mandate for coalition forces expires.

The Cardiff Central constituency party said: "Events over the last year and in particular the last couple of months, notably the unrelenting sequence of deaths of Iraqis and others do [not do] anything to justify any further postponement of a staged withdrawal of occupation troops."

Mr Reid made clear that two British soldiers freed by UK forces in Basra last week would not be handed over to the Iraqis, even though an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant. The judge said they were wanted in connection with the alleged deaths of several Iraqis during a confrontation with British forces.

But Mr Reid said the warrant had no legal basis and he defended the actions of the British Army in freeing the men.

"Under Iraqi law these have to be handed back for the administration of justice to the British themselves, which is why these warrants have no legal basis," he said.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

English Teacher, full time, Broadstairs school

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We have an urgent requirement fo...

Science Teacher, full time, Medway school

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education urgently seek...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?