Sources within the British Ministry of Defence in London revealed on December 9 that British troops will start pulling out of Iraq in March and that by next summer only about 400 British personnel will remain there. Britain currently has 4,100 troops in Iraq, with most stationed at Basra airport, in southern Iraq. Basra, located just 34 miles from the Persian Gulf, is Iraq's main port and is situated amidst the nation's petroleum producing and refining facilities. A smaller number of British forces making up SAS (British Special Forces) anti-terrorism squadrons in Baghdad are expected to be transferred to Afghanistan to join 8,000 British troops currently engaged in the fight against the Taliban.
On December 1, the Indian government summoned Shahid Malik, Pakistan's high commissioner, to lodge a formal protest over the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. AFP, the French Press Agency, reported that Malik was handed a message concerning his country's alleged "failure to curb terrorism emanating from its soil." The Mumbai attacks left at least 188 dead and nearly 300 wounded. The attacks took place in several locations, including a railway station, a restaurant, a hospital, two hotels, and a Jewish center.
Three separate bomb blasts killed a total of 19 people in Baghdad during the Monday morning rush hour on November 24, with one attack killing 13 government employees on a bus on their way to work. In the worst of the three incidents, a so-called "sticky bomb" fastened to the side of a bus carrying a group of employees riding to their jobs at the Iraqi Trade Ministry exploded, causing a fire in which four men and nine women perished. Five other victims were treated at a local hospital.
Thousands of people gathered in Baghdad's Firdous Square on November 21 to protest against a pact letting U.S. forces stay in Iraq until 2011. The current UN mandate authorizing the U.S. troop presence expires on December 31. Under the proposed Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns and cities by June 30, 2009, and the remaining 150,000 would leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.
Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on November 19, that Israel will not attend the UN's World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva in April. She also urged other nations to follow suit, stating: "We call upon the international community not to participate in this conference, which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism under the banner of the fight against racism."