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Blair to Announce British Troop Withdrawal

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Tony Blair is preparing to announce a major reduction in British troops in Iraq as a result of a successful operation to improve security in the southern city of Basra.

Downing Street indicated tonight that Mr Blair could make his promised statement this week on Britain's future strategy in Iraq, He will be in the Commons tomorrow for his weekly Prime Minister's questions session

Reports circulating in Whitehall tonight suggested that Britain's 7,000 contingent in Iraq could be cut to around 4,000 by the early summer.

More from the BBC:

BBC political correspondent James Landale said: "We have been expecting an announcement for some time on this."

He said by Christmas a total of 3,000 troops were expected to have returned to the UK from Iraq.

However, he said reports that all troops will have returned home by the end of 2008 was "not a fair representation of what is true at the moment".

Our correspondent said senior Whitehall sources told him that the pullout was "slightly slower" than they had expected and "if conditions worsen this process could still slow up".

So according to the news reports this is a long-planned announcement that is also coming as a result of the improved security situation in Basra. But is that really what it is? Perhaps more importantly, how will this news be framed by the media and used by Congressional Democrats to try and influence the Iraq war debate here at home?