Cook wants British troops pulled out

LONDON March 30. The former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who quit his senior government post in protest against military action in Iraq, has called for British troops to be pulled out of the war in the Gulf.

Mr. Cook, the most senior in a series of resignations from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair's Government over the war, told the Sunday Mirror that the U.S.-led war risked stoking hatred of the West.

``I have already had my fill of this bloody and unnecessary war. I want our troops home and I want them home before more of them are killed,'' he told the newspaper.

``There will be a long term legacy of hatred for the West if the Iraqi people continue to suffer from the effects of the war we started.''

Mr. Cook, who quit his Cabinet post as Leader of the Commons two weeks ago, is the most high-profile government member to call for troops to be brought home 10 days into the conflict.

Mr. Cook criticised the U.S. President, George W. Bush, for starting a war in Iraq on the assumption that the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein's army would quickly capitulate and victory would be swift.

``Nobody should start a war on the assumption that the enemy's army will co-operate. But that is exactly what President Bush has done,'' he said.

He warned of the dangers of besieging the Iraqi capital Baghdad and urged the U.S. army to consider other tactics.

``There is no more brutal form of warfare than a siege. People go hungry.

The water and power to provide the sinews of a city snap. Children die.'' But Mr. Cook's call for a troop withdrawal appeared to be at odds with British public opinion according to a new poll.

The ICM poll for the News of the World tabloid found 84 per cent of those surveyed believed Britain and the United States must see the war through to a successful conclusion with only 11 per cent wanting troops to be pulled out now.

At the time of his resignation, Mr. Cook said he was going because it was ``wrong to embark on military action without broad international support.''

A spokesman for Mr. Blair's office told Reuters that Mr. Cook's comments would not affect the Government's position. — Reuters

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