Plea for UK troops in Belize

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The Independent Online
THE Labour Party called on the Government yesterday to reverse its recent decision to withdraw the British garrison from Belize in view of events in neighbouring Guatemala, where President Jorge Serrano has closed Congress and declared emergency rule with army backing.

Belize has had a long-running territorial dispute with its larger neighbour. Since independence from Britain in 1981 it has been protected by 1,000 or so British troops, backed by Harrier jets.

Relations between Guatemala and both Britain and Belize have improved in recent years, particularly since Guatemala returned to civilian rule in 1986. In September 1991 it formally recognised the existence of Belize as an independent country. The British garrison will have gone by September 1994.

The Belizean government wants a British military presence to remain, and its uneasiness at the proposed withdrawal will be increased by the prominent role in Mr Serrano's surprise move of the strongly nationalistic Guatemalan army.

'The instability in Guatemala underscores the need for a long-term commitment to the security of Belize,' the High Commissioner in London, Robert Leslie, said yesterday.

But Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said last night: 'We see no renewal of the threat to Belize and have no plans to review our decision.'

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