Basra, Mar 24, (VOI) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived on Monday in the city of Basra to check security conditions there, a source from the Basra governor's office said.
Photo by U.S. Government, Department of Defense
"The prime minister will hold a press conference at the oil cultural center during the next few hours," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).
A spokesman for the Iraqi government had revealed on Sunday plans to restructure and intensify security forces' presence in Basra, 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. He, however, denied any plans to bring British troops back into the city.
"Iraq's security forces would be restructured and intensified in Basra with direct supervision from the prime minister, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with the aim of confronting groups involved in sabotage in the city," Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday.
Dabbagh declined to give any more details about the number of additional security forces to be deployed in Basra.
A security source in the Basra police told VOI that Undersecretary of the Interior Adnan al-Assadi and the Basra operations chief Maj. General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf had arrived earlier on Sunday, while eyewitnesses from different areas in the province said military forces in large numbers entered the province on Monday via the northern outlets.
The witnesses said that many U.S. warplanes landed at the city's airport.
Earlier on Monday British forces in southern Iraq said they had no plans to enter Basra, expressing readiness to back Iraqi forces in the oil-rich port city if they were asked by the Iraqi government.
"British forces have no plans to enter Basra at the present time. All 4,100 British troops are inside the British base in the Basra International Airport," 25 km northeast of the province," a spokesman for the Multi-National Force (MNF) in southern Iraq told VOI.
"British forces are ready to back up Iraqi troops if the Iraqi government asked us for it," he said.
The British newspaper Sunday Mirror said on Sunday that the United States hoped Britons would return to the city to fight escalated violence there.
British soldiers were stationed in one base - the Basra International Airport - after handing over the former presidential palaces, which they took as a military base, to the Iraqi forces.
The British forces keep 4,100 troops within the MNF in Iraq.
Britain was the United States' prime ally in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Ceremonies to hand over security responsibilities in Basra province from the British forces to the Iraqi authorities took place at the Basra International Airport in December 2007.
Jay Gory, The Cheers News
TAGS: Middle-East IraqBasraNouri al-Maliki