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Britain to Deploy More Troops for Iraqi Elections

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2005 – The United Kingdom will deploy more troops to Iraq to help provide security support during the upcoming Iraqi elections, the British defense secretary announced today in London.

Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon said Britain will deploy 400 troops from the 1st Battalion, "The Royal Highland Fusiliers," "for a limited period of time" as security reinforcements. The Cyprus-based battalion, known as the "Extremely High Readiness Reserve battalion," will deploy to Iraq to join Multinational Division (Southeast), Hoon said.

The division, led by the British, includes troops from Italy, Norway, Romania, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Lithuania.

Hoon said Britain's principal role in Iraq is to help provide security conditions for reconstruction and political development. "We are focused on developing the capability and capacity of the Iraqi security forces," he said, noting that 115,000 Iraqi security personnel are now trained, equipped and operating across Iraq.

The country's armed forces also have contributed directly to reconstruction, Hoon said, working with coalition and Iraqi partners. This includes support for projects ranging from the repair of essential transport services to the refurbishment of hospitals and schools.

During a late December visit to Baghdad, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed the importance of supporting the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi people with the approach of their Jan. 30 elections.

Blair called members of the Iraqi Electoral Commission "the heroes of the new Iraq that is being created," noting that they "are risking their lives every day in order to make sure that the people of Iraq get a chance to decide their own destiny democratically."

Regardless of what anyone thinks about the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, Blair said, "there surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror."

Blair said choices are clear. "On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work and want to have the same type of democratic freedoms that other parts of the world enjoy." On the other side, he said, are "people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq."

The international community has no choice but to stand by the Iraqi people, Blair said, supporting them as they strive to bring democracy to their country. In doing so, he said, they "are striking an important blow for democracy everywhere."

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