It was a chance to rally the troops before Christmas, but also to make the most of a photo opportunity. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a surprise visit to the city of Basra, where most UK soldiers have been based since the 2003 US-led invasion.
On his fourth trip to the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Blair hinted that London could start cutting back its troop numbers in Iraq over the next six months if the security situation there improves. About 8,000 British troops are still based in Iraq, mostly around Basra. Poland’s Prime Minister visited his country’s troops yesterday.
Also making an un-announced trip to Iraq was the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He arrived from Afghanistan, only four days after vice-president Dick Cheney was there to meet Iraqi leaders and praise the recent elections.
The success of those polls depends on who you talk to though. 35 Sunni Arab and secular Shi’ite political groups called a press conference in Baghdad to denounce the results of the election. They are threatening to boycott the new parliament unless claims of fraud are properly investigated. Iraq’s Election Commission has rejected the complaints as being without substance.