Beckett welcomes extra US troops for Iraq

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Indy Politics

The Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett today welcomed the announcement by US President George Bush of plans to send an additional 21,500 American troops to Iraq.

Mrs Beckett said the measures set out by the president in his speech in Washington showed the US administration was determined to get to grips with the security situation, particularly in Baghdad.

Arriving for talks in Downing Street ahead of this morning's Cabinet meeting, Mrs Beckett confirmed that Britain had no plans to send any additional troops to Iraq.

She said they were continuing to work "progressively" towards handing over security to the Iraqis in British-controlled southern Iraq.

Mrs Beckett welcomed the support of the Iraqi government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for Mr Bush's proposals.

"The announcement President Bush has made and the agreement and back-up of the Iraqi government shows that both are determined to try to come to grips with what is unquestionably a difficult situation, particularly in Baghdad," she said.

"We welcome that and we hope that this joint effort to resolve this very difficult security situation will indeed succeed."

Mrs Beckett stressed that the situation in the British sector centred on Basra is very different to that in Baghdad.

"We are dealing with the security situation in Basra. It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops," she said.

"Indeed, we are hoping to continue to make progress in dealing with the situation in Basra and give more responsibility to Iraqi forces."

Mrs Beckett played down a report in the Daily Telegraph that the Government is preparing to announce the withdrawal of 3,000 British troops by May.

She said that the pull-out of British forces would depend on improvements in the security situation on the ground in Basra.

"Nothing has changed from what we have said in the past," she said.

"We will make our judgments and our decisions depending on the progress of those events. That was the case in the past it is the case now," she said.

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