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Britain Considers Sending Additional Troops to Iraq - 2004-05-05

Britain says it is discussing the possibility of sending more troops to Iraq, and deploying them beyond the southern region that Britain has controlled since last year's invasion.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has told parliament his government is talking with the United States about increasing Britain's contingent of 7,500 troops in Iraq.

"We are in discussion with our coalition partners and with the Americans at the present time about the possibility of providing more troops for different parts of the country," he said. "Those discussions are not yet concluded. We will keep this under constant review. It is important that we do so."

A week ago, Mr. Blair said the United States had not asked for more British troops.

But the coalition is trying to fill the gap left by the departure from central Iraq of about 2,000 troops from Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.

In another development, lawyers representing 12 Iraqi families whose relatives allegedly were killed by British troops filed court papers seeking compensation and an independent inquiry into the deaths.

Their chief lawyer, Phil Shiner, says European human rights law should apply to the cases, because Britain is an occupying power in Iraq. He says many of the victims were killed outside of combat operations.

"We say you just can not go around shooting people when they are in their homes, going about their normal business," said Mr. Shiner. "So, we want an independent inquiry to look into the cause of all the deaths, and we want proper damages to be paid."

The Ministry of Defense denies responsibility for the deaths, and the government says Iraq is beyond the jurisdiction of the European human rights convention.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on a British newspaper editor to appear before lawmakers to explain the publication of controversial photographs allegedly showing British troops beating an Iraqi prisoner.

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has defended the photos from criticism by military experts, who say the soldiers depicted are not using the same kind of uniforms, rifles and vehicles as troops in Iraq.

Prime Minister Blair said it would be "extremely serious" if the photos are a hoax. The opposition Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard, said Mr. Morgan should take full responsibility if the allegations are false.

Adding to the controversy, the Daily Mirror has long supported Mr. Blair's Labor Party, but has harshly criticized the prime minister for taking Britain into the Iraq war.