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Divided Iraq threat to regional stability: UK

Dividing Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas would not solve sectarian tensions, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 18:57 IST

A divided Iraq would threaten regional stability, a problem, which Iraq's neighbours are recognising, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said on Monday.

"Dividing Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas might appear seductive but it would not solve sectarian tensions," Browne said in an address to the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

"A divided Iraq would also threaten regional stability. Even without that division Iraq is vulnerable to becoming a crucible for wider regional tensions."

"It is vital now that Iraq's neighbours give it full support and undivided support," he said.

"Even Syria, whose motives the international community has often had cause to question, has shown signs of constructive engagement."

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said last week that Britain might be able to hand over security responsibility in Basra in southern Iraq by the spring.

Browne said that by the end of next year, he expected the number of British troops in the country to be thousands lower.

"We will stay as long as we are making a positive difference, and as long as the Iraqi government need our support. We will hand over when it is right to do so, driven not by arbitrary deadlines but by reality on the ground," he said.

"I repeat that I am determined not to allow a single one of the 7,000 soldiers, sailors and air personnel currently in Iraq to stay there any longer than is necessary," Browne said.

First Published: Nov 27, 2006 18:53 IST