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Britain’s Prince Harry won’t serve in Iraq

Britain’s Prince Harry will not be sent to serve in Iraq after military commanders decided it would be too dangerous, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Britain’s Prince Harry will not be sent with his unit to Iraq, Britain’s top general said Wednesday, citing specific threats to the third in line to the throne and the risks to his fellow soldiers.

Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief of staff who recently traveled to Iraq, said the changing situation on the ground exposed the prince to too much danger. Media scrutiny of Harry’s potential deployment exacerbated the situation, he said.

“There have been a number of specific threats, some reported and some not reported, that relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual,” Dannatt said. “These threats exposed him and those around him to a degree of risk I considered unacceptable.”

Clarence House, the office of Harry’s father, Prince Charles, issued a statement declaring Harry’s disappointment that “he will not be able to go to Iraq with his troop deployment as he had hoped.”

“He fully understands Gen. Dannatt’s difficult decision and remains committed to his army career,” the statement said. “Prince Harry’s thoughts are with the rest of the battle group in Iraq.

The Defense Ministry had long said the decision would be kept under review amid concerns for the security of Harry, a second lieutenant, and other soldiers serving with him. The 22-year-old prince is a tank commander trained to lead a 12-man team in four armored reconnaissance vehicles.

The move comes as Britain is preparing to hand over much of its security responsibilities to Iraqi security forces, concentrating troops at Basra Palace and Basra Air Base.

Insurgent groups looking to target Cornet Wales — as his rank is called in the Blues and Royals regiment — would have had a concentrated area in which to look for him.

'Widespread knowledge' cited
Defense officials had previously said Harry could be kept out of situations where his presence could jeopardize his comrades. There had been speculation he would have been shadowed by bodyguards.

“A contributing factor to this increase in threat to Prince Harry has been the widespread knowledge and discussion of his possible deployment,” Dannatt said.

There have been reported threats by Iraqi insurgents to kill or kidnap the prince, including claims his photograph had been widely circulated among militants.

The younger son of Charles and the late Princess Diana, Harry has been a frequent face on the front of Britain’s tabloid newspapers, which have constantly covered his party-going lifestyle at glitzy London nightclubs.

Harry would have been the first member of the British royal family to serve in a war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands conflict with Argentina in 1982.

‘His soldiers will miss his leadership’
Dannatt paid tribute to Harry in his statement, describing him has a professional soldier whose presence will be missed in Iraq.

“I commend him for his determination and his undoubted talent, and I don’t say that lightly,” Dannatt said. “His soldiers will miss his leadership in Iraq, although I know his commanding officer will provide a highly capable substitute troop leader.”