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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UK defense chief faces censure over body armor for UK troops:report

PLA Daily 2004-01-19

LONDON, Jan. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon was to be censured in a parliamentary report as the row over fatal shortages of equipment for British troops in Iraq intensified, the British Independent newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to the paper, Hoon was to be given what one lawmaker predicted "a kicking" when the Commons Defense Committee issues its report on the US-led war against Iraq in early March.

The committee's report, Lessons of Iraq, was to be unsparing in its criticism of Hoon, the paper said.

Hoon has been urged to resign over the death of Sergeant Steve Roberts, a 33-year-old tank commander who was shot dead in last March during a riot in Iraq's southern city of Basra, days after he was ordered to return his body armor due to equipment shortages.

A preliminary report by the British Ministry of Defense indicated that armor could have saved Roberts' life.

Samantha, widow of Roberts, told the BBC Radio Five Live last week that her husband and other British soldiers in Iraq were "deeply shocked" at the lack of equipment during the Iraq war and called on Hoon to resign.

Britain is the key part of the US-led coalition forces in the Iraq war and in policing the country after the war in May last year.

British opposition Conservative Party leader Michael Howard said the affair amounted to a "dereliction of duty" by the government and also urged Hoon to step down.

The National Audit Office, an independent British government watchdog, said in December that British frontline forces were leftwithout vital kit during the Iraq war due to supply failures.

The Independent paper quoted some British senior military officials as saying that the shortage of body armor led gunners and armored-vehicle drivers in the frontline to being stripped of their flak jackets.

The British Ministry of Defense also admitted in a document published in December on the lessons to be learnt form the Iraq operation that "some shortages of equipment were experienced."

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