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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 February 2006, 22:44 GMT
Video fallout hits UK Iraq troops
British troops
John Reid is expected to ask the public to back British troops
British forces are facing problems in southern Iraq as the fallout continues over footage of soldiers apparently beating Iraqis.

A second regional council has now ended all co-operation with the British Army.

British military police have started interviewing four Iraqi youths about the video, taken during a demonstration in Amara, southern Iraq, two years ago.

In a speech, Defence Secretary John Reid is to call for people to be "slow to condemn our troops".

Mr Reid wants the difficult context of operating in an extremely hostile environment to be taken into account.

But with Maysan council joining its counterpart in Basra in registering a protest over the footage, most of British-controlled Iraq is now not co-operating.

We ought to recognise the difficult situation our troops now fight in, far more difficult than any time in history
Defence Secretary John Reid

All contacts with UK military and civilian authorities in Maysan have been suspended and the council has demanded the release of all the detainees from the province being held by the coalition.

The council in Basra, which has already frozen ties, has now warned its employees they will be fired if they have any involvement with the British forces.

Both councils are also demanding an immediate handover of powers from the British.

Military officials are hoping a speedy and thorough investigation into the events at Amara will help defuse tensions.

Officers have spoken to four alleged victims and visited the area where it is claimed the incident took place.

Proportion call

The video, released by the News of the World, shows soldiers apparently kicking and beating Iraqis, and was widely condemned.

Mr Reid has said that while the images were unacceptable, it was important to keep this in proportion. Out of nearly 100,000 troops going to Iraq, there have been only five sustainable allegations of the mistreatment of civilians, he added.

Three soldiers have been arrested in relation to the video, the Ministry of Defence said last week.

Cpl Martin Webster, of 1st Battalion The Light Infantry, was arrested on the day of publication, while a further two unnamed soldiers were arrested two days later.

The governor of Maysan told the BBC he intended to pursue the soldiers responsible for the apparent beatings through the British civil courts, if no criminal charges were brought by the UK authorities.

Iraqi's demonstrating against the presence of British troops


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