22 October 2004 -- Some 850 British troops have started preparations to redeploy from southern Iraq to outside of Baghdad, in response to a U.S. request for help in stabilizing the country prior to elections planned for January 2005.
In London yesterday, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the redeployment will be "limited in scope, time, and space." He said the move is important in helping Iraq hold a free, democratic poll.
"This deployment is a vital part of the process of creating the right conditions for the Iraqi elections to take place in January," Hoon said.
The U.S. military wants the British troops to move from the relatively quiet southern region in order to make more U.S. soldiers available to fight insurgents elsewhere in Iraq.
At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said late yesterday that it is still "technically possible" for Iraq to hold national elections in January but stressed that security conditions must improve.
In Iraq's northern city of Mosul, insurgents fired several mortar rounds in an attack apparently aimed at visiting interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The blasts came as Allawi's group was leaving the city by helicopter. There were no reports of any injuries.