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Breakfast with Frost

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: And now we go, and on that subject perhaps first of all, to the man who is the Commander of all the British troops, 44,000, 45,000 troops out there in the Middle East and the Gulf. Brian Burridge, Air Marshall Brian Burridge. Air Marshall, could I begin by asking, we were just talking to John Major there, recorded an hour ago, what is the latest news about that RAF plane.

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well it looks as though one of our aircraft returning from an operational mission was engaged by a US patriot, obviously by mistake. That aircraft is now missing, somewhere close to the border with Kuwait and that's really all I can say at this moment, obviously we're deeply engaged in searching for it and as soon as we've got any more information then once we are able to we will release that.

DAVID FROST: Very good. Do we know how many people were on board?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: No, I can't say. We always wait to gather the facts before we release any of this, just to be absolutely sure.

DAVID FROST: Understood. What sort of a plane was it?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: I'm afraid I can't tell you that either because we like to gather all the facts and make one announcement.

DAVID FROST: OK, understood. Tell me something, is there anything that can be done or is this danger of friendly fire one of the inevitable things about this sort of war?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well, a military coalition is probably the most intimate alliance you can imagine, because there you have two nations who share the risks, they share the danger, they share the reward and you develop a bond of trust between you. Because essentially you're taking on the responsibility for each other's lives, and I can't think of anything more intimate than that, and that's the way things are and that's certainly the way things are in this coalition. This is a sad moment but we'll put it behind us as quickly as we can in a military sense and carry on to our objective.

DAVID FROST: And the working together of the two leading coalition members, Britain and the US has proceeded in a first class way, no criticism of it at all on the basis of what you were suggesting there?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Absolutely. We've, since September 11th, we've put together a joint planning team to deal with the war against terrorism and then subsequently when the UK government decided to become involved with the planning for this mission and we are deeply integrated in a planning sense, both intellectually and practically, and very much in each other's minds.

DAVID FROST: And what about the fierce fighting Air Marshall, this morning, we hear has been continuing in Umm Qasr? Is that a surprise to you or would you expect there to be more of that rather than this?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: I think what we're seeing there, and the footage you see on television is actually a little bit north of Umm Qasr, near a military installation. What we're seeing is regular Army troops who have among them small pockets of determined men from the Saddam Feudeen (sp?) from the al-Kud (sp?) and from the special security organisation, and they were inserted probably to just put some backbone into the troops which they were clearly unsuccessful in doing, and this is just them fighting themselves. There will come a point where they recognise that there's no point in carrying on but, you know, for the moment they fight fiercely, but only in small groups.

DAVID FROST: Are you expecting there to be a great deal of surrender from the Iraqi forces as you approach Baghdad, or do you think they've set that as their Stalingrad?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Hard to say at this stage. I'm pretty sure that their initial plans would have been to do just that, to try and maintain a Fortress Baghdad but of course they probably didn't countenance the way in which we were going to remove the regime's ability to command, to control, or indeed to talk to each other. So I suspect they're in significant disarray at the moment, and so their plans, would be very hard for them to put into practice possibly, but you can never tell and, you know, military men, we never make promises about these things. It'll take as long as it takes and we take each problem as we see it.

DAVID FROST: What about Saddam, have you got anything to add about where he might be now?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well, it's probably unnecessary at this stage in the campaign to focus on him as one man. The key aspect is the regime itself. Once the regime recognise that its days are up then they will crumble. And while they're crumbling others who for some years maybe, have had designs on overthrowing the regime, will probably develop greater levels of courage themselves. So, you know, we'll see it crumble and Saddam's place in that is largely becoming immaterial.

DAVID FROST: Are you encouraged by the fact that the number of oil fires seems to be limited, or is that one of your fears for the days ahead?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Ah well no, we've secured the southern oilfields now. That was a very important objective for a number of reasons, not least that that is the birthright of the Iraqi people and it's the oil and the wealth that flows from the oil that's going to allow that country to recover, and it was a very important objective for us to defeat Saddam's rather bullying tactics to cause economic ruin to what is supposed to be his nation. So we're very glad about that, and it was a great example of coalition approach because there was US Marines and United Kingdom Royal Engineers in company with our Royal Engineers doing the explosive disposal and we have oil experts among them, and together they secured these oilfields and I think that was a great job and a great example of the coalition approach.

DAVID FROST: And has anyone told you Air Marshall, how long they'd like you to stay out there|?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well, again, we'll stay as long as it takes. There's no indication yet as to what we're going to find when we complete the military part of this job, but our objective and the objective of everybody involved here is to get Iraq on its feet as a new nation as quickly as possible, self-supporting, with all that that means.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you, thank you very much and for that summary there at the end. Air Marshall we thank you for joining us this morning.

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Thank you Sir David.

DAVID FROST: Very much thanks there and he's doing very well in his first ever live interview like that.


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