British presence in southern Iraq 'negative': Basra residents

Other News Materials 15 December 2007 01:55 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Most Iraqi residents of the southern city of Basra believe the presence of British troops in the region has been negative, an opinion poll for BBC television suggested Friday.

The ORB survey for the broadcaster's flagship political programme "Newsnight" suggested 86 percent of Iraqis thought the overall effect of having British troops in Basra province since the 2003 invasion had been negative.

Only two percent thought it had been positive; eight percent were neutral; four percent did not know.

More than half (56 percent) thought the British presence had increased militia violence. Fourteen percent thought it had made no difference while only three percent thought it had reduced.

The government in Baghdad announced on Wednesday that the British military will transfer security control of Basra province to Iraqi forces on Sunday, just over three months after handing over responsibility for Basra city.

British troops, whose numbers will decrease by more than half to about 2,500 in early next year, are expected to provide specialist backup to the Iraqi security forces such as patrolling Iraq's border with Iran.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed for the BBC thought the security situation would improve in the short-term with the handover. Some 72 percent thought it would improve in the long-term. Five percent expected it to worsen.