Vote delayed on legality of British troops

The legality of the continued presence of British troops in Iraq was far from certain last night as the Baghdad parliament delayed a crucial vote on the issue.

Iraq's parliament, caught up in a furious but unrelated dispute, will meet in emergency session today when British officials hope that some form of legal cover will be given to British forces in Basra before they leave next summer. However, the outcome remains unclear, and though ministers and officials in London were playing down the problem, it is causing concern to military commanders on the ground.

Sir Richard Dannat, head of the British army, said last night after the vote that UK troops may have to "pause for a day or two" while their legal status is confirmed.

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