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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 16:42 GMT
UK pressures US on Iraq inquests
Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman said relatives needed to know the truth
A senior US diplomat has met with a government minister to discuss the failure of US troops to attend inquests of Britons killed by "friendly fire".

Deputy US ambassador David Johnson met Harriet Harman, after complaints from a senior coroner.

It is believed no US servicemen have attended the inquests so far, including that of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd.

Mr Johnson said it was tricky issue but the US was committed to an open dialogue about what could be done.

He told the BBC: "We need to look at this, it raises some very tricky potential or difficult legal issues that we need to be very careful about and I don't want to say anything here which might commit me to anything in particular.

"But I do want to say we are very much committed to an open exchange with ministers to see what might be done."

We would have been happy to have them give evidence by video link, they wouldn't necessarily have had to attend the inquest
Anne Leech, whose son died in the first Gulf war

Last month Oxfordshire Coroner Andrew Walker, who conducts the majority of inquests, called on the attorney general to extradite the marines involved in the case of Terry Lloyd.

Mr Walker delivered a verdict of "unlawful killing" over the case, in which Mr Lloyd, 50, was shot by a marine while in a makeshift ambulance near the Shatt Al Basra Bridge on 22 March 2003.

The coroner also criticised the US for failing to name or send witnesses to another inquest in October into the deaths of two RAF men shot down by a US missile after completing a bombing raid on Baghdad in 2003.

Ms Harman said it was important for relatives to know how their loved ones had died and US soldiers would not face criminal charges or be ordered to pay compensation if they attended.

"It's simply just allowing the relatives to know the truth and therefore it's just not acceptable for them not to turn up," she said.

ITN journalist Terry Lloyd
An inquest ruled Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed

After the meeting she said there some more inquests coming up and the coroner wanted a US armed services representative to be present to answer his, or the families' questions.

"We have been discussing with Mr Johnson this morning how we can make that possible."

The mother of a British serviceman killed in the first Gulf War welcomed the government's move.

Anne Leech lost her 20-year-old son Kevin after British troops in Warrior armoured vehicles were attacked by US warplanes west of Kuwait.

'No witch hunt'

Mrs Leech, from Prudhoe, Northumberland, said: "We didn't want a witch hunt, we just wanted the truth.

"We would have been happy to have them give evidence by video link, they wouldn't necessarily have had to attend the inquest."

But Conservative MP Adam Holloway, who served with the Grenadier Guards and fought in the first Gulf War, said he did not think much would come of the meeting.

"Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Iraqi civilians and indeed Afghans, have been killed by American aircraft.

"I think if we had some sort of greedy 'no win no fee' lawyers poking around Iraq for example, the Americans would be in a whole world of trouble legally."


SEE ALSO
US 'must send inquest witnesses'
12 Nov 06 |  UK Politics
Extradite US soldiers - Campbell
25 Oct 06 |  UK Politics

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