Britain will not change its strategy of staying in Iraq until that country's forces are ready to take over responsibility for security, Prime Minister Tony Blair said.
He rebuffed calls for a quick withdrawal, saying it was crucial that British troops remain in Iraq as long as they are needed.
"To do anything else would be a complete betrayal not just of the Iraqi people, but of all the sacrifices that have been made by our armed forces over the years," Blair said during his weekly House of Commons question and answer session.
"There will be no change in the strategy of withdrawal from Iraq, only happening when the Iraqi forces are confident that they can handle security," he said.
With violence rising in Iraq, pressure has been growing on London and Washington for a new strategy. Earlier this month, British army chief Gen. Richard Dannatt said that British forces should leave Iraq soon because their presence there provokes more violence than it prevents.
Blair acknowledged that the decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein had been contentious, but said the country had made big progress in building a democratic government since then.
"We should stand by them, stick by them in achieving it," he said.