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British Alliances

It was billed as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first major speech at the United Nations. Minister Brown was looking to build new international alliances to fight global poverty and disease, but Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati had concerns about British troops pulling out of Iraq.

It was clearly not a question Brown expected from the Iraqi delegation. "What I proposed yesterday, which I hope the Ambassador will favor, is that we build for the region for which we have been working with the Iraqi people - the southern eastern region of Iraq - that will allow the local and national governments to come together for the future," he said.

However, the Prime Minister did not answer the question about the British troops. He wanted to focus on the millenium development goals, but he was peppered with questions about British troops withdrawing from Iraq and how that might affect the troops in Afghanistan as well.

"I've made it clear; we've got duties to discharge, we've got responsibilities we're going to keep, were operating with the support of the Iraqi government. We're operating under U.N. Resolutions. We continue our work in south of Iraq," said Brown.

Later, he tried to answer the same troop question from the BBC. "I have said that we will support the security forces in training and support then and that will happen over the next few months," replied Brown.

More than 5,500 British troops patrol the outskirts of Basra, Iraq. In the Basra Palace City Center, 500 are due to hand over their base to Iraqi security forces within the next few weeks.

When asked about the impression he hoped to to leave behind, Brown responded, "I'm looking for a strengthened relationship between Britain and America, and that relationship is built not even on mutual interests - it's built on shared values."

Despite trying to present a unified front with President Bush on Iraq, many U.N. Diplomats are expecting a further draw-down of British troops in the fall when Brown gets the recommendations from his commanders in Baghdad.
By Frank Ucciardo

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