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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Leave Iraq, urges airman's father
Peter McFerran
Peter McFerran was "very keen" to join the RAF, his father said
The father of an airman who was killed in Iraq last week has called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to start withdrawing British troops.

College lecturer Robert McFerran, from Flintshire, spoke before travelling to RAF Lyneham, where the body of his son Peter, 24, will return on Wednesday.

The senior aircraftman died with two colleagues in a mortar attack in Basra.

A Downing Street spokesman said some forces had already been withdrawn but their presence was still needed.

But Mr McFerran, who spent 10 years in the RAF himself, said: "I think it about time Mr Brown started to bring the troops home."

He paid tribute to his "brave" and "patriotic" son, whose body will be flown back to the UK from Iraq on Wednesday.

I am much more optimistic that Mr Brown will start troop withdrawals sooner rather than later
Robert McFerran

Peter McFerran, of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, died with two colleagues last Thursday when he came under mortar fire from insurgents while resting at an airbase five miles outside Basra.

SAC Matthew Caulwell, 22, who was from the same squadron and SAC Christopher Dunsmore, 29, of 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, were also killed.

Mr McFerran, who lives at Connah's Quay, said any withdrawal of troops from Iraq would need to be "handled carefully".

"If we start moving people out all together, we would be more vulnerable to attack," he said.

"The problem with the situation we have in Iraq is not with the fighting men, they are the best.

Draw a line

"The only thing that lets them down is the fact they are led by politicians - politicians with no experience of war."

Mr McFerran said the change of prime minister would allow Mr Brown to draw a line under the UK government's previous Iraq policy.

"The Blair government had nobody with any experience of running a country and overseeing a war, " he said.

"With the end of the Blair era and Mr Brown now in power, we can hopefully draw a line under the past and start getting personnel home.

"I am much more optimistic that Mr Brown will start troop withdrawals sooner rather than later."

'Dissuade him'

Mr McFerran received a birthday card from his son on Saturday, two days after the fatal attack.

The heavy machine gun operator wrote: "Dear Dad, see you in September, love Peter".

His father said he "nearly had a heart attack when I realised it was from Peter."

He and his wife Ann last saw him when he was at home on leave for two weeks in June.

"He was very keen to join the RAF, even though we tried to dissuade him. He was patriotic".

A Downing Street spokesman said that some forces had already been withdrawn from Iraq with numbers falling from 7,100 in February to 5,500 currently.

The spokesman said that it had already been decided that "where we can we draw down troops but what we can't do is draw them down precipitously".

He said UK troops were in Iraq under a UN mandate and they had to ensure Iraqi forces were in a position to take over the country's security.

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22 Jul 07 |  North East Wales
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