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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 17:40 GMT
Foreign secretary in Iraq visit
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Baghdad in January
Mr Straw met leaders in Iraq for talks in January
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has arrived in Iraq on a surprise visit.

He is in Baghdad and will hold a series of talks with key political leaders on the discussions to form a new Iraqi government, the Foreign Office said.

UK military commanders will also brief him on the situation in southern Iraq, where British troops are on patrol.

Two regional councils have halted co-operation with the Army after a video showed apparent abuse of civilians by UK troops two years ago.

Consideration call

Three soldiers have been questioned over the pictures and UK military police have interviewed four Iraqi youths.

The video was shot during a demonstration in Amara, southern Iraq, in 2004.

In the wake of controversy surrounding the pictures, Defence Secretary John Reid has called for the public to be more understanding of the "unprecedented challenges" faced by British troops in foreign battle zones.

He said people should be "slow to condemn" UK forces in Iraq.

US threat

Political leaders have yet to start serious talks on forming a new government.

Correspondents say negotiations could take months because of objections to sectarian representatives being appointed to office.

Talks to form a new government have faltered over divisions between Shias, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

The US has threatened to cut aid to Iraq if the new government includes politicians with a sectarian bias.

In Baghdad on Monday, a suicide bombing on a bus killed at least 12 Iraqis.

Other violence, including a restaurant bombing in Mosul, northern Iraq, killed 11 people.

It is the second time in two months that Mr Straw has been to the Iraqi capital for talks.


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