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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 April, 2003, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Joint patrols begin in Basra
A British soldier on patrol
Military forces have struggled to maintain law and order in Basra
The first joint British military and Iraqi police patrols have begun in Iraq as efforts continue to restore law and order.

Local police, accompanied by British forces, have started patrolling in Basra and al-Faw in southern Iraq and moves are underway in Baghdad to recruit volunteers.

A state of lawlessness followed the fall of the Baath party regime in Iraq and British and American forces struggled to maintain order.

Two police advisors from the Ministry of Defence in London were sent to Basra to help the British military regain control.

Militarily you can't just switch from one to the other within 24 hours and there are still irregulars around
Colonel Chris Vernon

It is hoped the new patrols, which will be closely monitored by the MoD advisers, will help restore order.

But requests earlier in the week for former Iraqi police officers to come back to work sparked controversy.

There was anger after one man chosen was revealed to be a Baath Party member.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has indicated that former members of the Baath party will be recruited to rebuild Iraq after being closely vetted.

He said many of them were "perfectly decent people who have not participated in any atrocities".

They are the best I've got
Lt Col Mike Riddell Webster

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Riddell Webster, of Black Watch, who is co-ordinating the peace-keeping efforts in Basra, is unsure how many police officers still support the old regime.

"They are the best I've got," he told BBC News.

"They will be operating under direct British control. We will see how it goes."

But one Basra woman called the police thieves.

"They just want bribes," she told BBC News.

Marine and local policeman (left) in Al Faw
Marines are patrolling with local policemen in Al Faw, south of Basra

A promise by soldiers that they would be employing 120 local labourers also caused problems.

It resulted in troops struggling to hold back a 200-strong mob who turned up at their base at the presidential palace looking for work.

According to military officials on the ground in Basra, the situation in the city is slowly beginning to improve.

Slow improvement

Certain aspects of the city's infrastructure, such as traffic and street lights, have been restored and people are beginning to buy goods from local markets again.

presidential palace in Basra
Soldiers struggle top hold back a mob of Iraqis looking for work
Looting, which has been rife for the past several days, also looks as if it may be on the wane.

The UK forces have been criticised for not having brought the situation under control sooner.

But UK forces spokesman in Kuwait, Colonel Chris Vernon, said it would take time to restore order throughout Iraq.

"I think what people have got to understand is that we were considered as a war fighting force out here," he said.

"Militarily you can't just switch from one to the other within 24 hours and there are still irregulars around.

"We've done it gradually. We've huge experience of this in Northern Ireland and in the American towns you are seeing the Americans switching their capability."

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports from Basra
"It's supposed to be a fresh start"


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