New Sierra Leone deployment 'risks lives'

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The Government was accused by the Tories of putting more British troops at risk last night after the disclosure that a rapid deployment force is to be sent back to Sierra Leone.

The Government was accused by the Tories of putting more British troops at risk last night after the disclosure that a rapid deployment force is to be sent back to Sierra Leone.

The Tory defence spokesman, Iain Duncan Smith, warned against increasing British involvement without clear objectives. "Leaving small numbers of troops out in Sierra Leone could lead to serious problems," he said. "The Government is in a mess."

Sending more troops could cause public concern after the recent hostage crisis. An SAS soldier was killed during a daring rescue of British troops held by rebel forces.

The rapid deployment force will be sent to Sierra Leone to protect the British troops left there to train the government army against rebel forces.

But the British troops will not form part of the UN's Unamsil peace-keeping force. A Foreign Office spokesman said that, while Britain would "play its part" in supporting the UN on the ground, there would be no direct UK contribution.

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Menzies Campbell, said: "If the Government is serious about stability, strengthening the UN is the only way to go about it."

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