UK unwilling to divulge US plans to stay in Iraq
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
London, Jan 27, IRNA
The British government has confirmed that it regularly discusses military planning in Iraq with the US but is unwilling to divulge whether Washington wishes to retain permanent military bases in the country.
"The issue of future US military bases in Iraq is a matter for the US government and the government of Iraq," Foreign Office Minister Ian Pearson said in a written parliamentary answer published Friday.
But Pearson did confirm that the UK "remains in close touch with the US government about a range of issues in Iraq, including military planning and basing issues."
US military commanders have frequently been reported to have prepared plans to consolidate American troops into four large air bases after the eventual withdrawal of most of its troops from the country.
But last February, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied any plans when telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that "we have no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in Iraq."
The issue of US permanent bases was raised by Conservative MP Andrew Turie, who chairs the new All-Party Extraordinary Rendition Group set up to investigate details of CIA flights transiting UK airports while taking terror suspects to secret east European camps.
Currently, some 9,000 British soldiers remain deployed in Iraq following the 2003 US-led invasion to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.
According to official figures, 98 UK servicemen have so far been killed, including two-thirds by enemy action, and around 230 injured.
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