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British troops arrive at base in central Iraq

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of British soldiers being deployed to provide cover for U.S. troops have arrived at their base near Baghdad, the Ministry of Defense said Friday.

Sky News report that the troops from the Black Watch regiment were based west of al-Mamoudiyah, about 15 miles south of Baghdad.

The ministry did not immediately provide details of the deployment.

The British Broadcasting Corp. said the base was in a relatively unpopulated area away from the dangerous Sunni towns that have seen many attacks on U.S. and allied forces.

A small group from the Black Watch arrived at the base by road on Thursday. The rest of the 850-strong battlegroup was flown from Basra in southern Iraq to avoid the dangerous road trip.

The bulk of Britain's 8,500 troops in Iraq are based around the southern port city of Basra in a comparatively peaceful area.

The American military wants the British to assume security responsibility in areas close to Baghdad, so U.S. Marines and soldiers can be shifted to insurgency strongholds west of the capital, including Fallujah.

The decision to agree to the U.S. request for redeployment is a politically sensitive one for the British leader, whose popularity has plummeted because of his support for the Iraq war.