Geri and the peacemakers raise a desert storm

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The Independent Online

Geri Halliwell dressed for battle yesterday. Wearing a bikini the size of a commando's parachute rip-cord, she gave Britain's soldiers something to cheer about.

Ms Halliwell, the finely toned artiste once known as Ginger Spice, has become an unlikely, modern day equivalent to Dame Vera Lynn. She arrived yesterday in Oman for a morale-boosting concert for 7,000 British military personnel, who are in the Gulf State as part of Operation Swift Sword, a training exercise that has taken on new significance. Not that the troops needed their morale boosting. They watched England qualify for the World Cup in the hours that preceded Ms Halliwell's 50-minute concert with its 10 costume-changes.

Ms Halliwell's stay has already attracted controversy. According to reports she has made a series of unusual demands – from a fridge full of soya milk in her dressing room to a request she is kept well away from the other big name on the "Geri Show" bill, the teen pop idols Steps. But a source close to Ms Halliwell denied any suggestion of tension between her and fellow performers while Ms Halliwell he said, doesn't drink cow's milk because she is on a special diet.

Ms Halliwell was yesterday frolicking in the surf close to the Hilton Hotel in Salalah, Oman's second biggest city. The concert, organised some months ago prior to the attacks on New York and Washington, was due to take place yesterday evening 50 miles into the Dhofar desert, in a an arena specially dug out of the desert by the British Army.