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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 12:55 GMT
Ex-RUC head to review Iraq police
Sir Ronnie is the former head of the PSNI
Sir Ronnie is the former head of the PSNI
The UK is sending a former NI policing chief to Basra in southern Iraq to carry out a review of policing there.

The BBC has learned Sir Ronnie Flanagan is going to Iraq because of growing concerns about the infiltration of the country's police force by insurgents.

Sir Ronnie is the former chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, formerly the RUC.

He told the BBC it was clear "a lot still has to be done" to improve policing in Iraq.

"In the four provinces for which we are responsible a lot of progress has been made, but a lot still has to be done," he said.

"I think there's a recognition that probably in standing up and training the Iraqi army, more progress has been made in that area.

"We're probably almost a year behind in terms of progress with policing.

"And I think what needs to be done now is that a total concentrated effort needs to be made by all the Coalition forces to ensure that concentration upon policing is provided".

Security forces

Defence Secretary John Reid said Sir Ronnie would be looking at the effectiveness and neutrality of the police.

"The vast majority of Iraqi security forces are courageous and are doing a very good job," he told the BBC.

He added: "We are almost 10 years on from the beginnings of the Good Friday Agreement and we don't even have acceptance in Northern Ireland, from the whole community, about policing there.

"So, in a much different situation, with much more difficult problems in Iraq, it would be surprising if we were able to accomplish this overnight, but we are steadily making things better."

John Reid
It would be surprising if we were able to accomplish this overnight, but we are steadily making things better
John Reid
Defence secretary

On Friday, Mr Reid said Iraqi security forces could take control of some UK-run areas of Iraq in 2006.

Mr Reid inspected British troops and met new members of the Iraqi army during a visit to Basra.

He said the quality of the 210,000 Iraqi security forces meant the handover could start next year.

But he stressed British troops would not leave completely until Iraqi forces could "defend their own democracy".

The trip comes amid a growing debate over how long UK forces should remain on the ground in Iraq.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said British troops could leave by the end of 2006. Ninety-eight UK soldiers have died since the invasion in 2003.

See the incident which led to the policing review

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