U.K. to Bring More Troops Home

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says his country will take 2,500 of its troops out of Iraq by mid-2008. Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities want Blackwater USA to pay $8 million each to the families of 17 people killed when its guards opened fire at a traffic circle last month.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Things on the ground in Iraq will look a lot different after today's news. The British are going. The British are going. Here's Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (United Kingdom): Subject, of course, to conditions on the ground, we plan from next spring to reduce force numbers in Southern Iraq to a figure of two and a half thousand.

BURBANK: Mr. Brown spoke yesterday to Parliament, where he announced Britain's troop force in Iraq would be cut in half by the middle of next year. Later in the day, another British official said there's no guarantee that any of their troops would stay in Iraq beyond the end of 2008.

STEWART: Britain's forces are based mainly in the southern city of Basra. Brown said Iraqi Forces will take control of security in that region within two months, ending Britain's combat role in the country.

BURBANK: As for the United States role, Iraqis are calling on the U.S. to server all contracts in Iraq with security contractor Blackwater USA within six months. They also want Blackwater to pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of the 17 people killed when its guards sprayed a traffic circle with heavy machinegun fire last month.

STEWART: Those demands are part of an Iraqi government report that also called on the U.S. to hand over the Blackwater agents involved in the shootings to face possible trial in Iraqi courts. This report is considered the strongest statement yet by the Iraq government on the shootings, and is likely to further strain relations with the U.S. on this particular issue.

BURBANK: Meanwhile, on the ground today, two almost simultaneous car bombs in Baghdad targeted a local police chief and a prominent Sunni sheikh, both of whom are known to be working with U.S. forces against al-Qaida in Iraq.

STEWART: Now, initially, reports say 18 people were killed, but the police chief survived. No word yet on whether the Sunni tribal official was among the casualties. These attacks are part of al-Qaida's promised Ramadan offensive, as the end of the Islamic holy months approaches.

BURBANK: And that is today's BPP big story. Now, let's get the rest of the news from Rachel Martin.

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