Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Monday that Iraqi forces will take over security next month in a southern province, opening the way for the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.
The decision, announced after al-Maliki met with Japan's ambassador, does not necessarily mean that any US-led coalition forces will withdraw from Muthana province.
"It's an important day for Iraq and a very important day for the UK as well as an important day for the region and for the people of Muthana province," British Defense Secretary Des Browne said in Baghdad. "We have been anticipating this day for some time when the Iraqi government was able to announce they could take over control of a province and we could agree that their forces were ready to do that."
"What it does is it begins the process which will eventually lead to our ability to draw down our forces in Iraq," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.