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10,000 UK troops To Remain In Iraq Four More Years

British troops will stay in Iraq for at least three or four more years, the foreign secretary confirmed today.

Speaking to the BBC, Jack Straw agreed it would be a matter of years rather than months, before adding - under pressure from the interviewer - "I can't say whether it's going to be 2006/2007."
UK troops in Iraq for years - Straw

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday January 5, 2004

British troops will stay in Iraq for at least three or four more years, the foreign secretary confirmed today.

Speaking to the BBC, Jack Straw agreed it would be a matter of years rather than months, before adding - under pressure from the interviewer - "I can't say whether it's going to be 2006/2007."

That clarification of the timetable for UK military involvement in Iraq came as Tony Blair arrived back in London after his brief post-holiday visit to troops in Basra.

With the government facing the publication of Lord Hutton's report into the death of David Kelly next week, the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, predicted that the prime minister would keep his job whatever the outcome of the inquiry.

Mr Kennedy, whose party formed the main parliamentary opposition to the Iraq war, will join with Conservatives in attacking Mr Blair over the government's handling of Dr Kelly, a government weapons expert who apparently committed suicide on July 17, but said he did not expect the prime minister to lose his job over the affair.

Mr Kennedy conceded that the PM could never be totally safe because his was the most exposed position in politics.

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I do find it difficult to see, as things stand, that there is liable to be a change in premiership."

But he said no one yet knew the outcome of the Hutton inquiry or the vote on top-up fees - both events likely to give the government a very difficult start to the new year.

The Conservatives will almost certainly use Lord Hutton's report - expected to be published on January 12 - to call for Mr Blair's head, as well as that of the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon.

This morning, interviewed on Iraq, Mr Straw said he had no reason to believe power would not be handed over as planned on July 1. But he said British troops would be in the country for years to come.

He said he could not give an "exact timescale" for their withdrawal but "it is not going to be months".

"I can't say whether it is going to be 2006/2007," he added.

He said they were playing a vital role in ensuring stability and security in Iraq, as they had in Afghanistan. Lives would be put at risk by a security vacuum if the troops were suddenly pulled out, he told the BBC.

Mr Straw also insisted the government had not shifted away from justifying the war on the basis of weapons of mass destruction to humanitarian grounds.

The House of Commons had passed a motion highlighting Iraq's breach of its obligations to deal with its weapons programmes. But the UN security council resolutions also pointed to Saddam's flagrant failure to fulfil humanitarian obligations, he said.

The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, commented: "The foreign secretary's frank admission should not go unnoticed.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "British commitments in Iraq will be a substantial strain on financial resources and on our armed services for years to come.

"The government should take the British people into its confidence and tell them precisely how much it is costing and how long it is planned that 10,000 UK troops will be deployed in Iraq."

homepage: homepage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1116381,00.html
address: address: The Guardian

therefore... 05.Jan.2004 13:29

this thing here

American troops will stay in Iraq for at least three or four more years, the Secretary of State confirmed today.