Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 14:33 UK

UK's Basra mission 'successful'

Major General Andy Salmon
Major General Salmon said UK troops could be proud of their mission

British troops can be proud of a "successful conclusion" to their mission in southern Iraq, their commander has said.

Major General Andy Salmon, the head of British forces in Basra, has said the troops have left the area much safer.

In an interview with the Press Association (PA), Maj Gen Salmon said: "I can put my hand on my heart and say we've finished this right."

British troops are due to hand over control next week.

"I know that it was a very difficult start - we all know that.

"We know that actually we went through some difficult times."

He said: "So did the US Army, we all went through difficult times.

We can be proud of our achievements
Major General Andy Salmon

"We stayed the course and we endured, and we partnered with everybody, and seized our opportunities and adapted along the way."

Britain's combat operations in Iraq are due to finish on 31 May, and virtually all of the 4,100 troops in the country will have left Iraq by the end of July.

Maj Gen Salmon will leave Iraq this week, with the Basra region handed over to the control of US forces

"We can be proud of our achievements," he said.

"We should be humble but not frightened of spelling out the successful picture that we are looking at now in Basra, albeit there are still a lot of challenges and considerable things that have to be done to make it a stable place."

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