17 Dec 2008

Brown makes surprise visit to Baghdad

9:35 pm on 17 December 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday for an unannounced visit and was received by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The visit follows the drafting by the Iraqi Cabinet of a law that paves the way for Britain's 4,100 troops to withdraw by the end of July 2009, more than six years after the United States-led invasion.

British officials say they do not expect to have more than a handful of troops left in Iraq, carrying out some training exercises, after the formal withdrawal.

Britain at one point sent 45,000 troops to fight the Iraq war and was Washington's main partner during the invasion.

Meanwhile, the brother of the Iraqi who threw his shoes at US President George Bush during a news conference says the journalist has suffered broken ribs and a broken hand.

However, the Iraqi government says the journalist is in good health and allegations of mistreatment are false.

The journalist, Muntazar al-Zeidi, has become something of a cause célèbre, and protesters have taken to the streets of Mosul and Baghdad demanding his release.