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Old 03-15-2003, 07:50 PM   #1
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the war plans

US, British Naval Commanders Discuss Final Plans

Updated 7:59 AM ET March 15, 2003

By Peter Graff

ABOARD HMS ARK ROYAL (Reuters) - British and American naval commanders pored over final plans on Saturday for a possible attack on Iraq by sea.

"Today is one of the final planning meetings that we will have," U.S. Rear Admiral Barry Costello told reporters aboard Ark Royal, Britain's flagship carrier, where he met the commander of the British task force in the Gulf.

"The planning is complete. Execution is next and we are ready to go forward," Costello said, playing down speculation that Washington might launch its attack without the British amphibious force assembled off shore.

"United as one, we're gonna make this happen."

British task force sailors and marines were unsettled this week when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Washington could attack Iraq without them.

Britain has since stressed it plans to stand with the United States if a decision to attack is taken, with or without a second U.N. Security Council resolution.

Costello discussed plans for the naval campaign with Commodore Jamie Miller, commander of the British force at sea, and Royal Marines Brigadier Jim Dutton, commander of the 4,000 marines in theater, on shore and afloat.

Britain has about 1,500 elite Royal Marine commandos at sea on two helicopter carriers and support ships -- part of an amphibious task force that could strike by landing craft or helicopter into southeastern Iraq.

Britain's total 45,000 military personnel contribution to the force in the Gulf is its biggest deployment since the Suez crisis and Korean War of the 1950s.

London has deployed slightly more troops than in the 1991 Gulf War, while Washington has deployed fewer.

Britain has sent fewer tanks than in 1991, but more helicopter-mobile paratroops and commandos, reflecting its increasing specialisation in rapid response warfare.

(This story was written by Peter Graff of Reuters on behalf of the pool of correspondents with British forces in the Gulf)
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