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British Reservists Called Up in Build-Up for Iraq

The Ministry of Defense is planning a mass mobilization of key reservists beginning in September, heightening expectation that the United States and Britain are stepping up preparations for an attack on Iraq.
British troops have also been pulled out of Nato's ACE Mobile Force rapid reaction corps and British involvement in a large number of exercises has been cancelled or scaled down to leave troops ready for the attack on Iraq.

The Prime Minister has strongly backed the idea of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq and refused to commit the Government to a vote in the House of Commons on the deployment of British forces.

British military planners are working on the basis that Britain will provide a very large force, including an armored division, a naval task force and substantial numbers of combat aircraft.

The decision to pull out of the Nato rapid reaction force was taken at the same time as it was announced that the bulk of British forces were being withdrawn from Afghanistan and Bosnia.

It means that the 1,500 British troops previously earmarked for the force will not now be taking part in two major exercises this autumn, in Germany and Ukraine.

In another move to free forces for an attack on Iraq, 3,000 members of Britain's main fighting force, 1 (UK) Armored Division, have been withdrawn from a tank exercise in Poland. The MoD insisted that no decision had been made on Iraq but did not deny that planning was under way. "Any government department has contingency plans," a spokesman said.

Defense sources said the reservists who would be called up would cover key shortages such as pilots, medical staff, special forces, intelligence and signals.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002



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