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Last Updated:  Friday, 11 April, 2003, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
UK troops start heading home
Local children watch a British Royal Marine out on patrol in Basra
Troops must finish the fighting before tackling law and order
Britain is beginning to scale down its military presence in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the government was in the very early stages of implementing a post-conflict strategy.

He said ships, planes, helicopters and field hospital units would shortly be withdrawn from the Gulf region, including HMS Ark Royal and some of her accompanying ships.

"It would not make sense to keep personnel in the region any longer than is necessary," he said. "Some have already returned and some will return shortly."

Four Tornado F-3s of 111 Squadron have already landed at RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland.

TACKLING LAW AND ORDER
Looters in Basra

Air Commodore Martin Routledge, the base commander, said: "The job's done, air supremacy has been gained over Iraq, the Iraqi airforce has been overwhelmed and it's time to start bringing forces back."

But an RAF spokesman stressed that they were not withdrawing from the Gulf, adding that around 270 air and ground staff from the base were still in the region.

Mr Ingram said the overall objective of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction would continue in what was rapidly becoming a more secure environment.

Law enforcement

But he warned that although the situation was improving in Iraq, fighting would continue for some time in certain areas.

He said a number of law enforcement specialists from the UK would be sent to the region to work with the Iraqis to restore and maintain law and order.

Widespread looting has taken place across the country since the fall of the regime and the UN had accused the UK and US of being unable to maintain control.

Mr Ingram said coalition forces were now working hard to repair and improve the country's water, power and fuel supplies, much of which would end up in a better condition than it was before the conflict, he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Relief and joy for the families who have been waiting... at home"



SEE ALSO:
Tornados return from the Gulf
11 Apr 03  |  Scotland


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