US 'too heavy-handed', says Foreign Office memo

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A leaked Foreign Office memo has revealed perceptions within the Blair administration that the Americans are being too "heavy-handed" in Iraq and have landed the coalition in trouble.

A leaked Foreign Office memo has revealed perceptions within the Blair administration that the Americans are being too "heavy-handed" in Iraq and have landed the coalition in trouble.

The memorandum was circulated to senior ministers and officials by the Iraq directorate of the Foreign Office last week and was entitled "Iraq: The Medium Term". It was dated 19 May.

Under a heading "Problems", the memo said: "We should not underestimate the present difficulties ... Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi'ite opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq."

The memo talks of "the need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sensible and sensitive US approach to military operations", and says there is a need to stop the US doing anything to "jeopardise our objectives".

The six-page paper, reported in The Sunday Times, was accompanied by a one-page supplement of "public lines" for ministers. They were told to say nothing further than that "the security situation in Iraq is difficult".

The memo talked of the expansion of the deployment of British forces in southern Iraq, and possibly taking over responsibility for the American-controlled areas of Najaf and Quadisiyah, which were previously under Spanish command.

"We shall want to minimise the profile of coalition forces after 1 July and get the Iraqis out in front as much as possible, particularly in patrolling and policing."

Embarrassingly, the document suggested that the celebration on June 6 of the D-Day landings would "serve as some leverage on the French".

It also revealed Britain was pushing for an international conference on Iraq which has been requested by the Russians, French and Germans.

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