Britain to send 'token' force to help Kuwait

LONDON - Britain is expected to commit some troops to reinforce the protection of Kuwait but it would be a limited token force, Government sources indicated last night, writes Colin Brown.

The Prime Minister's office said there would be no 'massive' deployment of British troops in Kuwait. Ministers are keen to preserve the support of senior Conservatives who have warned against Britain committing a large-scale ground force.

Downing Street had not received a formal request for troops from Kuwait and no decisions had been made. Officials said that Britain was under no treaty obligation to send troops, but the defence co-operation memorandum between Britain and Kuwait, signed in February last year, carried responsibilities. Britain has so far concentrated on helping Kuwaiti air and sea defences.

As Government sources confirmed that John Major had played a restraining role on the bombing proposed by President Bush, the Prime Minister sent a letter to president-elect Clinton emphasising the importance of the 'special relationship'. 'I hope you will not hesitate to look to us for friends of the US for practical as well as political support. I look forward to working with you,' Mr Major wrote.

The Prime Minister's office said no meetings with Mr Clinton had been fixed. 'We are in no rush,' said one source. But officials stressed the Prime Minister felt it was important to keep in close touch with Mr Clinton in the coming days of the crisis confronting the new administration.

Downing Street indicated that during the six telephone calls at the weekend the Prime Minister and Mr Bush discussed choices of targets. Mr Major emphasised the importance of keeping within international law with a proportionate response to Iraqi provocation. Officials said they were 'very happy' that the target list had been limited to the nuclear weapons plant in central Iraq and air defences in the no-fly zones. At Westminster, the Government agreed to an emergency Commons debate on the action in Iraq.

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