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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 17:33 GMT
UK reaction to troop withdrawal
Tony Blair has announced that thousands of British troops are to withdraw from Iraq over the next few months.

Here politicians, campaigners and others react to Mr Blair's statement in the Commons:

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR

"It is important to show, and show particularly the Iraqi people, that we do not desire our forces to remain any longer than they are needed but whilst they are needed, we will be at their side.

"In this context what is happening in Basra is of huge importance."

KATE HUDSON, CND

"The sooner our troops come home, the better. Even the chief of our own defence forces recognises that our presence in Iraq is making matters worse.

"Blair must stop making vague assurances about troop withdrawal and commit to an unconditional withdrawal of all British troops on a clear and rapid timescale."

LIB DEM LEADER SIR MENZIES CAMPBELL

"I welcome the prime minister's announcement of the troop withdrawals, especially in view of the remarks made by the former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Guthrie, yesterday about overstretch and the difficulties being experienced by our armed forces. "

He added: "The unpalatable truth is that we will leave behind a country on the brink of civil war, in which reconstruction has stalled and corruption is endemic, and a region that is a lot less stable than it was in 2003.

"That is a long way short of the beacon of democracy for the middle east that was promised some four years ago."

CONSERVATIVE LEADER DAVID CAMERON

"That news will be welcome in this House, in the country, and especially to the families of those serving in Iraq over the coming months.

"We owe a huge debt to the professionalism, the courage and the dedication shown by our Armed forces serving in Iraq, as elsewhere.

But he added: "Does the prime minister accept that that news is inevitably tempered by questions and concerns about the dire situation that persists in Iraq today, about its implications for Iraq's neighbours and the rest of the region and, above all, about the safety and security of our troops who will remain?"

REG KEYES, STOOD AGAINST TONY BLAIR AT LAST ELECTION

"It is purely political. It is an attempt by Tony Blair to distance himself from George Bush. He's coming to the end of his term in office and Iraq will be his lasting legacy.

"It's abhorrent that our forces should be used as a chess piece in this way."

SHADOW DEFENCE SECRETARY LIAM FOX

"I think it's for commanders on the ground to judge at the time, in relation to what they find there, exactly the speed at which we can hand over to the Iraqi forces.

"It's difficult for us to judge from here in Westminster. It's for our commanders to make that decision."

LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTENDER JOHN MCDONNELL MP

"I welcome any withdrawal of troops but this is too little, too late.

"It is time for all those who now recognise that our invasion and occupation of Iraq was a disaster from the start to stand up and be counted in calling for a comprehensive exit strategy to be quickly implemented."

ALEX SALMOND, SCOTTISH NATIONALIST PARTY LEADER

"The prime minister's statement sounded like a long self-justification for the horrors of the last four years, and at points almost like something prepared for the Day of Judgment rather than for the House of Commons.

"He says that he does not apologise for values, although he did apologise for the slave trade, for which he had no personal responsibility. Will he at least apologise for the misinformation on weapons of mass destruction, which took us into Iraq, and the carnage that has been a direct result?"

STOP THE WAR COALITION

"More than 650,000 deaths later, with 130 British troops dead, with British military bases around Basra under daily attack, with Iraq in meltdown and with thousands fleeing the country every day, Blair is, not for the first time, announcing a gradual withdrawal of UK forces because of their 'success'."

TORY FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND

"The prime minister is right that we should not apologise for our values, but I am afraid he still has the obligation to apologise to this House and to this country for his foolish decision to take this country into war in the first place."

ROSE GENTLE, MILITARY FAMILIES AGAINST THE WAR

"This is a good thing but is it just because there's an election coming up? If he sticks to it then that's good but we've heard all this before.

"They should just bring them all home. They [the soldiers] don't know who they are fighting against, if they build something it's just knocked down again and they are not getting the right equipment to protect themselves."

FORMER LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER CHARLES KENNEDY

"We all hope that today's statement from the prime minister marks the beginning of the end in terms of the active engagement of our armed forces.

"None the less, I am sure that he would want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that, for the rest of us, in this country and the world generally, it is far from the beginning of the end.

"The quagmire that we are almost inevitably leaving behind in Iraq, given what will now take place, will have ramifications."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The expected timetable for withdrawal





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