Basra, 29 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Iraq today, the first leader of the U.S.-led coalition that ousted former leader Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq. Blair arrived in the southern city of Basra, where he is scheduled to meet with British troops controlling the area. Later, Blair is scheduled to meet with British troops in the port city of Umm Qasr.
Blair told reporters on route to Iraq that he wanted to thank British troops for the job they did in Iraq.
Blair's visit comes amid questions about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction which coalition forces have yet to find. Blair said he has no doubt the weapons are there and that interviews under way with Iraqi scientists will provide more information on the weapons and their whereabouts.
Blair is scheduled to meet with Paul Bremer, the U.S. head of the civil administration in Iraq, and also with John Sawers, the British envoy to Iraq.
In other news, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith said yesterday in Washington, D.C., the United States has asked nearly 50 countries to send police advisers to Iraq to help curb chaos and violence there.
Feith said only seven countries have so far agreed to send advisers to help train a reorganized Iraqi police force and assist U.S. troops in daily patrols. He said police officers from Italy and Spain are among those who have arrived in Iraq to help train and build a police force.
He also said 15 countries have pledged to provide troops for a stabilization force in postwar Iraq. He did not name the countries. Feith said the troops are expected to be deployed by July.