Accessibility links

Breaking News

Britain Sending Additional 1,200 Troops to Iraq


Britain says it is sending 1,200 more troops to Iraq in response to a surge in terrorist violence there.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon informed parliament that two more British battalions will be heading to Iraq. The deployment will increase the size of the British military contingent there to more than 12,000 troops.

Mr. Hoon said he was making the move after what he called "a disturbing increase in terrorists attacks" last month, including bombs targeted at the U.N. compound and one of Iraq's senior Shi'ite clerics.

He said the additional British troops will have three missions: to protect the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, defend other British military forces, and train an Iraqi civil defense corps.

Mr. Hoon said the objective is to prepare Iraqis to defend themselves. "We want to see as soon as we possibly can transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqis, for them to take responsibility for their own affairs," he said.

The defense spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, Bernard Jenkin, said the ongoing violence and the British troop buildup reflects a failure in post-war planning by Mr. Hoon's department. "The government's policy is a shambles in Iraq. Moreover, today's written statement says he may yet send further reinforcements and he still does not have a plan that is fully formed," he said.

The troop deployment announcement coincides with the publication of a new opinion poll showing a rise in the popularity of Prime Minister Tony Blair, despite the Iraq controversy and the inquiry into the apparent suicide of a British weapons scientist.

The Times newspaper poll showed 39 percent of respondents support Mr. Blair's Labor Party. The Conservatives got 32 percent backing, with 19 percent supporting the Liberal Democrats. That is a five point pickup for Labor compared with a similar poll last month.