INTERNATIONAL

Britain considering despatch of more troops to Iraq

LONDON SEPT. 6. Britain was today considering sending additional troops to Iraq as the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, admitted that the situation there was `serious' and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, warned of a "strategic failure'' in Baghdad if more forces were not deployed to improve security.

Mr. Straw was reported to be in favour of sending 5,000 more soldiers to supplement the 10,000 British troops already in Iraq, but the Government was said to be considering a much smaller number. The Ministry of Defence said a "review of the forces and resources required to support U.K. operations'' had been ordered by the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, in the wake of "events in Iraq over past weeks'', a reference to the growing attacks on coalition forces and the murder of a Shia leader.

Mr. Blair acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in the war-ravaged Iraq but insisted that the "vast majority'' of ordinary Iraqis were on the same side as the coalition forces. He blamed remnants of Saddam Hussein's supporters and `outside' terrorist groups for the growing acts of violence and `sabotage'.

"This is not the American and British troops against the Iraqi people.

The terrorist attacks taking place are not the work of ordinary Iraqis. This is the British and American forces and the vast majority of Iraqis versus a small number of Saddam's supporters and an increasing number of outside terrorist groups,'' Mr. Blair said at press conference in Downing Street.

Asked whether he could identify the terrorists and where they might have come from, he simply said they were from "different extremist groups from different parts of the region''. Pressed further, he admitted he could not be more specific but insisted that there was `evidence' to back his claim.

He said the response to what he repeatedly described as "terrorist attacks'' should "not be to waver but to redouble our efforts to root out terrorism'' everywhere, including India.

Mr. Blair's remarks came amid reports that according to `confidential' notes of a meeting the Foreign Secretary warned of a "strategic failure'' if the situation in Iraq was not secured and steps were not taken to speed up moves towards self-government.

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