London under pressure to send additional troops to Iraq as Bulgarian president survives shooting attack in Karbala
London is holding talks with Washington and other occupation partners with regards to "filling the gap" left by the imminent pull out of Spanish troops from Iraq.
British premier Tony Blair is under pressure from Washington to plug the gap left by Spain pulling out 1,300 troops from key areas, raising concerns British troops will be sent to trouble spots like Najaf.
It has been suggested the United Kingdom could be asked for an extra 1,700 soldiers to help replace the Spanish contingent. In addition, there is speculation British troops could be dispatched to operate in more "hazardous" areas further north of their southern base of Basra.
According to a report in The Times, UK officials have drawn up a complex series of options for Britain's role.
They are said to range from sending another 1,500 to 2,000 troops to taking over command of a second multinational division in central south Iraq.
Britain currently has around 7,500 troops in Iraq.
Meanwhile, shots were fired at a motorcade carrying Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov, who made an unannounced visit to Iraq Sunday, but there were no casualties, Bulgaria's BTA news agency reported.
The incident took place on the road between the Polish base and the Bulgarian base in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
"A brief exchange of fire took place between unknown assailants and the convoy," BTA said.
Parvanov and Bulgarian army chief of staff General Nikola Kolev held talks in Iraq with US top administrator Paul Bremer and General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the occupation's land forces in the country, the president's office said.
Sanchez said that US special forces in the Karbala region would begin to act against the "militia" of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, BTA added. He also said that an armored battalion would be deployed in the city.
Bulgaria maintains a 450-man contingent in Iraq under Polish command as part of the US-led occupation. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)