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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Iraq attacks prompt troops review
British soldier
British soldiers are trying to get on with locals
Calls for more troops to be sent to Iraq in the wake of attacks on coalition forces over recent weeks are being considered by the UK Government.

A review of forces and support for soldiers in the Gulf is taking place amid reports that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has warned the prime minister more troops must be sent to Iraq.

Notes drawn up for a meeting between the pair were leaked to the Daily Telegraph.

The prime minister is likely to be pressed on the issue at his monthly news conference on Thursday.

Eleven British soldiers and more than 60 US troops have been killed in action since President George Bush announced the end of major combat operations on 1 May.

In response to the reports the Ministry of Defence issued a statement saying it kept the Iraq situation under "continual consideration".

It went on: "In the light of events over the past few weeks, the defence secretary has asked for a review of forces and resources required to support British troops."

BRITISH FORCES IN IRAQ
10,000 soldiers currently on the ground
45,000 troops from all three armed services were in Iraq at height of conflict
11 British troops killed in action since the end of major combat operations
The review will be carried out by commanders on the ground in Iraq.

If they take the decision to adjust troop levels, an announcement will be made by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in Parliament.

The news comes as the US moved towards asking the UN to approve the creation of a multinational force in Iraq in return for ceding some political authority.

But the White House said any military force in Iraq would be under the control of an American commander.

In the leaked notes, Mr Straw said failure to send more troops could lead to a "strategic failure" in efforts to maintain security in Iraq, with the situation "deteriorating", said the Telegraph.

Terrorism fears

The newspaper said the notes were marked "confidential" and recorded Mr Straw suggesting 5,000 more troops should be sent to Iraq to counter attacks on British and American troops and bomb blasts.

Electricity generation still around 25% below war levels, and transmission undermined by looting and sabotage
Reported leaked memo from Jack Straw
Mr Straw reportedly said: "[The] lack of political progress in solving the linked problems of security, infrastructure and the political process are undermining the consent of the Iraqi people to the coalition presence and providing fertile ground for extremists and terrorists."

He said there would need to be progress by the start of Ramadan on 27 October, the newspaper said.

The foreign secretary also reportedly referred to the coalition's failure to restore some area's of Iraq infrastructure.

"Electricity generation still around 25% below war levels, and transmission undermined by looting and sabotage," he is reported to have said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think we have done enough over there
Nick, UK

'Finishing the job'

Asked about the leaked document, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister and the foreign secretary - and other cabinet ministers with an interest - discuss Iraq frequently. It would be odd if they didn't.

"But the prime minister and the foreign secretary and the cabinet as a whole will ensure that the UK presence in Iraq has the resources it needs to do the job it is there to do."

Former Defence Minister Lewis Moonie said he would not be surprised if more troops were sent to Iraq as it was important to discourage any impression that the coalition had become "bogged down".

Labour MPs would generally accept the deployment of more troops if that what was needed to "complete the job", said Mr Moonie.

"We have, after all, drawn down largely on the numbers that we originally sent out there," Mr Moonie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I'm not saying this is something that could be done very easily. But it's something that could be done as long as it's not too long-term."

Salvaging the peace

Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin said it was very serious Mr Straw thought more troops were needed.

"The problem that the British Army has is that they are recovering from a period of extended over-commitment," he said.

"So the more soldiers that are deployed now, the longer it will take to recover to be ready for future operations like the conflict in Iraq."

Donald Anderson, Labour chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said "It's absolutely clear that decisions have to be made urgently if we are going to salvage the peace."




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