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Bush says U.S. to freeze Iraq troop withdrawal in July

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President George Bush said Thursday the U.S. would complete a limited withdrawal from Iraq in July, and then freeze the number of troops at 140,000.
WASHINGTON, April 10 (RIA Novosti) - President George Bush said Thursday the U.S. would complete a limited withdrawal from Iraq in July, and then freeze the number of troops at 140,000.

Bush endorsed a recommendation by Iraq's top U.S. military commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to be given time to "consolidate his forces." In a televised speech Bush said: "I've told him he'll have all the time he needs."

The latest move will guarantee that the U.S. will maintain a major presence in Iraq until Bush's presidential term ends in January 2009, and a new president takes office.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Petraeus said "security conditions have improved enough to withdraw all five brigades by the end of July."

Defending last year's "surge" of more troops, which saw the deployment in Iraq of an extra 30,000 U.S. personnel, primarily in and around the capital Baghdad, Bush said: "We have renewed and revived the prospect of success."

The U.S. leader also announced that starting from August the U.S. Army would cut combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan from 15 months to 12 months.

Violence has continued unabated in Iraq in the five years since the formal end of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

According to the Al Jazeera news channel, as a result of the conflict, about one million Iraqis have died, more than three million wounded, and over four million displaced.

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