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Royal Navy on standby to assist UK nationals in deepening Gulf crisis

PA Wire

By Gavin Cordon and David Hughes, PA Political Staff

The UK Government is putting in place "urgent measures" to protect British nationals and interests amid rising tensions in the Gulf, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Mr Wallace said non-essential personnel had been moved out of Baghdad while Royal Navy warships and military helicopters were on heightened readiness to assist if needed.

In a Commons statement, he again appealed for all sides to "de-escalate" in the wake of the killing of the Iranian military chief Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

At the same time he defended the right of the US to act in self-defence, saying Gen Soleimani had been in neighbouring Iraq when he was hit to "co-ordinate murder and attacks on US citizens".

Ahead of a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the growing crisis, Mr Wallace said the safety and security of UK nationals and interests in the region were of "paramount concern".

Non-essential personnel had been re-located from Baghdad to the military base at Camp Taji, north of the Iraqi capital, while the Department of Transport was reviewing its advice to British shipping on a daily basis.

"At the same time, Defence are changing the readiness of our forces - including helicopters and ships on stand-by to assist if the need arises," he said.

"As part of prudent planning, a small team has been sent to the region to provide additional situational awareness and contingency planning assistance."

The UK Government has already announced that the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender and the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose are to resume duties escorting shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

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