Paper says Britain readyto exit Basra

By Times Wires
Published September 2, 2007

In London, the Sunday Times reported that British forces could hand over responsibility for the southern Iraqi city of Basra as early as next month, citing unnamed government sources. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has consistently refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from the country, but said a decision could be announced when Parliament returns from its summer break in October. Following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Britain controlled security across southern Iraq, but has since handed over three of four provinces to Iraqi forces. Britain's Ministry of Defense has previously said it hopes to hand security responsibility for Basra, the last remaining province, over to Iraqi forces sometime this autumn. No decision as to the precise timing of the handover has been made, the ministry said.

Cleric's aide killed

Gunmen killed Muslim al-Batat, an aide to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Basra, police said Saturday, the latest in a string of attacks targeting associates of Iraq's leading Shiite cleric. The shooting Friday night was a sign of continuing tensions following clashes between Shiite militias last week.