Britain beefs up gulf response with 120 tanks, 6,000 troops


LONDON -- Britain ordered yesterday an armored brigade with 120 tanks and 6,000 troops to the Persian Gulf, making the first major response from a NATO ally to the Bush administration's request for ground forces.

"Iraq's evil aggression must be reversed, and my announcement today confirms our determination to play our full part in the worldwide effort to achieve this," Defense Secretary Tom King said.

The significance of the increased British commitment is as much political as military. The move is meant to show solidarity with the United States while sending a strong signal to the Iraqis.

The force itself is small in comparison to the U.S. military presence but will be able to deliver what one retired British commander called "a jolly good punch."

In other troop movements yesterday:

*Canada said it would send a squadron of CF-18 fighter jets and 450 military personnel. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said that 12 to 18 fighter jets, now based in West Germany, would provide air cover for Canada's two warships and one supply vessel en route to the gulf.

*West Germany will offer U.S. forces the use of transport planes and ships, a government source said. But he declined to give further details of what Bonn would offer when Secretary of State James A. Baker III visits the capital today.

*Italy said it would send an additional warship and eight Tornado fighter planes to the gulf region. Italy already has contributed five ships.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government ordered the 7th Armored Brigade from Germany to Saudi Arabia. The brigade's major claim to fame was its World War II campaign against the Germans in North Africa, where its troops earned the title of the Desert Rats.

The increased deployment is expected to bring the cost of Britain's gulf effort to almost $4 million a day.

Announcing the deployment, Mr. King said, "Our purpose in sending further forces is twofold: first, to ensure that no further aggression can possibly succeed and that the defensive shield is sure for Saudi Arabia and the threatened gulf states.

"Secondly, to ensure that Saddam Hussein understands that while we seek the implementation of the United Nations resolutions by peaceful means, other options remain available and that, one way or another, he will lose."

The brigade consists of two armored regiments equipped with 120 Challenger main battle tanks, an armored infantry battalion with Warrior armored fighting vehicles, an armored reconnaissance squadron with Scimitar combat vehicles, an artillery regiment with 155mm self-propelled guns and an air defense battery with Javelin shoulder-launched missiles, Lynx anti-tank helicopters and Gazelle reconnaissance helicopters.

The government also ordered another squadron of Tornado fighter-bombers to the gulf, bringing the total number of warplanes there to 54.

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