Hasan Suroor

LONDON: After persistently denying that there were any plans for Prince Harry to serve in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Thursday confirmed that he would be going to the war zone, becoming the first senior member of Britain's royal family to see active military service since Prince Andrew in the Falklands war in 1982.

The 22-year-old Prince, who graduated from Sandhurst last April and is known to his colleagues as Troop Commander Wales, would serve in Iraq for six months as a member of his Blues and Royals regiment carrying out a "normal troop commander's role,'' said a joint statement from MoD and Clarence House, the official residence of Prince Charles.

Although details of where exactly he would serve were not disclosed for security reasons, it was understood that like other British troops his regiment would also be deployed in southern Iraq.

Earlier this week, MoD had dismissed as "entirely speculative'' a Daily Mirror report that Prince Harry would join British forces in Basra by the end of this month.

The Prince, who has a playboy image and has attracted some rather unflattering headlines in the past, has been keen to cultivate a more serious image.

"He wants to be taken seriously as a soldier, which is why he made it clear after he'd finished his officer training at Sandhurst that he would leave the army if he was left behind when his regiment was sent to a war zone,'' according to the BBC Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell.

The MoD said the decision to deploy Prince Harry had been made by Chief of General Staff Gen Sir Richard Dannatt in conjunction with the Prince's commanding officer and the Royal family had been "consulted throughout."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected calls for him to apologise for dragging Britain into a war. Speaking on BBC, Mr. Blair said he had nothing to apologise for. "I don't think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq. We're trying to support the democrats against the terrorists," he said.