UK, Russia review Iraq deployment
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain and Russia are reconsidering their positions on troop deployment in Iraq as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad at the start of a tour of the Gulf.
Before leaving for the region, Rumsfeld said the key to stabilizing Iraq was to beef up forces but added the United States would not be sending additional troops to the country.
His comments come as Britain launches a review of its troop levels in Iraq following a report that the foreign secretary has told Prime Minister Tony Blair to send more soldiers or risk "strategic failure."
In a meeting with the prime minister, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw proposed deploying 5,000 more British troops to Iraq, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
But Blair said Thursday that no decision has been made on whether to send additional troops.
In the first signal that Russia may contribute troops, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted by Interfax as saying that country may send peacekeepers to Iraq as part of an international force.
Russia had opposed the war and has been pushing for the United Nations to take control.
On Thursday, UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon ordered the troop level review. The move comes after weeks of heightened insecurity in Iraq, including several suicide bombings that have left more than 100 people dead.
"In the light of events in Iraq over past weeks, the defense secretary has asked for a review of the forces and resources required to support UK operations," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
"If any decisions are taken to adjust force levels, ministers will inform Parliament in the normal manner, as they have done throughout the operation.
"There's no timeline attached to the review for the moment. ... It will be carried out by people both in Iraq and the UK."
Blair told reporters at his monthly news conference that British troop levels were under constant review.
"I think you can make rather too much of this," he said in response to a question about Hoon's order and Straw's reported comments.
"Unless there is a recommendation that comes forward from our military commanders that they require more troops, we don't provide them," Blair said.
Up to 25 different countries were supplying about 14,000 troops in Iraq, with British levels at 10,000 or 11,000, he added.
"We keep it under review constantly because we have got to get the job done, but there are no decisions that have been taken on additional troops."
According to the Daily Telegraph, Straw told Blair the situation in Iraq was "deteriorating" and urged the prime minister to boost the current 10,000-strong British force. Fifty British troops have been killed in Iraq, 17 since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
Straw's comments were revealed in "confidential" notes drawn up for a meeting between the two men which were leaked to the newspaper, it said.
Meanwhile, Rumsfeld -- who arrived on the Gulf Thursday to get a "first-hand sense of how things are going" -- said beefing up Iraqi forces was the key.
"It is their country, they ultimately are going to have to provide security for that country," Rumsfeld said.
"Rather than flooding it with American soldiers, it seems to me, it makes all the sense in the world to have a principled effort to strengthen the size of the Iraq security forces, whether it is police, army, the militia, the border patrol, and that is exactly what's been taking place." (Full story)
However, Straw said additional UK troops would increase security amid the growing threat from terrorist bombings and attacks on coalition troops, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"Lack of political progress in solving the linked problems of security, infrastructure and the political process are undermining the consent of the Iraqi people to the coalition presence and providing fertile ground for extremists and terrorists," Straw said, according to the report.
He urged "visible improvements" by the beginning of the Muslim festival of Ramadan on October 27, and said Iraqi's expectations for reconstruction were not being met.
"Electricity generation still around 25 percent below war levels, and transmission undermined by looting and sabotage," the reported notes showed Straw as saying.
In another development Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq -- authorize a multinational force under unified U.S. command -- does not go far enough.
Both men, speaking at a joint news conference in the eastern city of Dresden, agreed the United Nations should play a leading role in the political process. (Full report)
Under the draft resolution, the United States would keep a "dominant role" in the Iraq occupation and be in command of any multinational peacekeeping mission. It would also encourage Iraqis to set a timetable for holding elections and establishing self-rule.
Meantime, a classified draft military review on lessons learned from the war says planners did not have enough time to prepare for the rebuilding and reconstruction of Iraq, according to Pentagon sources. (Full story)
Asked about the leaked document, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister is in frequent contact with the foreign secretary and other members of the cabinet with responsibilities referring to Iraq. It would be odd if he wasn't."
He added: "The prime minister and the government as a whole will ensure that the British presence in Iraq has the resources it needs to do the job it is there for."
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it never commented on leaked documents.
-- CNN Producer Eden Pontz contributed to this report