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Fury over training of UK troops for attack

13 July 2002

Plans to put a force of British shock troops into Iraq were attacked yesterday by Labour MPs.

Thousands of infantrymen are to be trained alongside SAS troops in readiness for a strike against dictator Saddam Hussein.

They will offer back-up to special forces in sabotage missions against factories making weapons of mass destruction.

But the move was condemned last night by Labour MP Alan Simpson.

He warned of a backbench revolt, saying: "This won't bring peace to the Middle East. It will set it alight.

"I've no doubt Britain is playing an active part in training and planning for war. But, while our involvement may have the blessing of the Prime Minister, it does not have the support of the people."

Meanwhile, as military preparations are stepped up for an American-led campaign against Iraq, 2,000 British soldiers are being pulled back from service in Kosovo and the Balkans.

Neither Downing Street nor the Ministry of Defence would deny the military build-up.

A senior defence official said: "We're working closely with the Americans and are not going to speculate about what might happen. But we are in this for the long haul."

Asked about a possible invasion, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "No decisions have been taken. But there is an awareness that at some point this is an issue which is going to have to be dealt with."

Reports indicate that Britain is going to contribute up to 25,000 troops for the onslaught on Iraq.

A senior military source said that, so far, Washington had not formally requested British troops

But he added: "There is a general expectation that we are going to be involved in a big event next year."
Bob Roberts Published in The Mirror ©Trinity Mirror Digital Media Limited 2002

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