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Blair Does Not Rule Out Sending More Troops to Iraq - 2003-09-04


British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday the situation in Iraq is serious and did not rule out sending more troops to Iraq.

The prime minister says no decision has been made on boosting British force levels in Iraq, but he says it is a topic that is being studied.

"We have constant meetings on Iraq and the situation there," he said. "We keep the situation continually under review. My own sense of this, however, is that, you know as I say, you have got to work out, given the tasks that you are setting your troops, whether you have got the right numbers of troops to do it and that is something we take advice on constantly."

Earlier Thursday, news reports disclosed that British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon had ordered a fresh assessment of troop strength. Currently, some 11,000 British troops are deployed in southern Iraq. In a Daily Telegraph report, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying five thousand more are required. Failing to add more troops, he adds, would risk strategic failure in the volatile country.

Mr. Blair acknowledged in his news conference that the danger from Saddam loyalists and outside extremists in Iraq remains high, but stressed that this would not deter British military resolve.

"Of course it is a difficult situation and as ever, you know, our first thoughts should be with our troops," Tony Blair said. "They do a fantastic job and doing it in very, very difficult circumstances, but this is a necessary fight not just for Britain and America but for the whole of the world. This goes wrong, then the Middle East goes wrong."

Eleven British soldiers have been killed in Iraq since May 1, the date President Bush declared that major conflict had ended.

But questions still remain among the largely unconvinced British public about why Mr. Blair pushed the country to war in the first place.

Mr. Blair also told reporters Britain had input on the new U.S. draft resolution, calling for a U.N.-authorized multinational force to be deployed under the unified command of the United States.

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