British troops in Iraq have begun to withdraw from their base at Basra Palace in the southern city, the Iraqi Defence Ministry has announced.
The 550 personnel are leaving to join the remaining 5,000 troops at the last British base near Basra Airport.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed Prime Minister Gordon Brown was aware of the operation.
The withdrawal from Basra Palace was part of the ongoing process of handing over to Iraqi security forces, he said.
He added that the prime minister was aware the operation was happening, but it was a military matter.
He would not confirm that this would mean an overall reduction in the number of troops on the ground in Iraq, saying this would "depend on the assessment of commanders on the ground over the coming weeks and months".
In Basra, Major Mike Shearer said an operation was ongoing, but he would not give any further details.
Last Mod: 03 Eylül 2007, 09:25