- Britain and the US have drawn up plans to withdraw coalition
troops from Iraq as soon as possible, according to reports.
- A briefing from Government sources indicated a greater
urgency for the clear "exit strategy" to help Iraq develop its
army, police force, civil defence corps and intelligence service.
- Previously, officials in London and Washington have said
forces could stay "for as long as it takes".
- The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair
and President George Bush had agreed to "speed up" the transfer
of authority to help achieve the goal of handing full sovereignty to Iraq
on July 1.
- Downing Street said the aim was to have a strategy which
would bring British troops "as quickly as possible - but as quickly
as possible when we can leave behind an effective government and security
- Ministers are today expected to come under fresh pressure
over Iraq as MPs debate the conflict in the Commons.
- Thousands more soldiers are expected to be deployed shortly
to help counter the spiralling violence.
- Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon yesterday ruled out allowing
MPs to vote on further deployments.
- Mr Hoon stressed no decision had been made but said he
already had a mandate to send whatever forces were required.
- "Clearly if the commanding officer on the ground
says at very short notice we require extra troops because of some significant
deterioration in the security it would irresponsible of me not to agree
to that request and agree to it very promptly," he said.
- Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy agreed but said:
"That is very different indeed from saying we will expand dramatically
either the geography - the field of operations - outside where we are at
the moment or that we place ourselves under the American control in those
- Labour left-wingers are expected to join the Lib Dems
in arguing for a vote in the Commons debate, called by Mr Kennedy.
- Fresh calls for Mr Blair to distance himself from President
Bush are also likely.
- Former foreign secretary Robin Cook, who quit the Cabinet
over Iraq, yesterday said the Government should plan a way to pull out
- "We really do need to get elections quickly, find
a genuinely representative government of Iraq, recognise that frankly it's
not going to be sympathetic to the coalition forces who are now so unpopular
in Iraq," he said.
- "And I personally think we need an exit strategy
that says as soon as elections have been held, as soon as there is a democratic
government to run Iraq, we're getting out."
- Mr Hoon said he was "disappointed" with Mr
Cook who was aware, from his former role, that "these decisions have
to be taken in light of events on the ground".