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"Today's transfer of security responsibility for Basra Province to Iraqi control is a major step forward. It is a testament to the growing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, and to Iraqi readiness to step up and assume responsibility. I am glad to have been in Basra to witness the transition for myself. I want Iraqis to know the Britain remains a committed friend. We will continue to support the people and government as they forge a future based on reconciliation, democracy, prosperity and security. Our aim is to see an Iraq run by Iraqis for all Iraqis."
In his interview with Andrew Marr on the Sunday AM programme, the Foreign Secretary welcomed the agreement to maintain security and work for stability and growth signed by Basra's political leaders on 4 December.
British troops serving with the Multi National Force in southern Iraq have played a key role in the completion of a vital project which will help regenerate the economy and provide many jobs for local people living in the area. Find out more on the MOD website.
In London on 20 June 2007 former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mr Hoshyar held a press conference and discussed issues of 'mutual concern' on Iraq.
'It is a great pleasure to welcome Hoshyar Zebari again to London today. We have had, as always, a friendly and constructive meeting and discussed some issues of mutual concern. I think there is no question that the fledgling democracy we have in Iraq is faced with a number of serious challenges, of which the main one of course is the challenge of security. Attacks by insurgent groups are a direct challenge to the Iraqi government and to the coalition, but of course the wishes of the great majority of the people of Iraq have been seen through their democratic wish for a peaceful future for Iraq.'
'And the recent car bombings, the attacks on the Mosques, the Shia Mosque and then the Sunni Mosques, are further examples of the contempt the insurgents are showing for human life and the fact that their objective is to create division and chaos in Iraq which is damaging for everyone. And what we wanted to do today is to reinforce again to the Iraqi government that we remain steadfast in our support for them.'
Three more provinces in Iraq were transferred to the control of Iraqi security forces on Wednesday 30 May. Commenting on the transition, the former Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said:
'I am pleased to welcome the formal transfer of responsibility for security to Regional Iraqi Control in the three provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, which took place today. These latest transfers bring to seven the number of Iraqi provinces transitioned to the Iraqi authorities, with eleven remaining.
'The decision to transfer these three provinces was taken by the Government of Iraq in close consultation with the Kurdish Regional Government and the coalition. It was taken in the light of a rigorous assessment of the security situation and capabilities of the provincial and regional security forces. This is a major political and security achievement and shows the trust and co-operation that has been built up between the central government and regional authority.
'I pay tribute to the work of the US and Korean led MNF Divisions in the area which have helped contribute to the security and stability in these provinces that has allowed the transition to take place.'