Prince Philip visits troops in Iraq

LONDON - Prince Philip made a surprise visit to British troops near the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Sunday, officials said.

The 85-year-old Duke of Edinburgh met soldiers from The Queen's Royal Hussars in his role as the regiment's colonel-in-chief.

Prince Philip told the troops he thought most people in Britain had "a great deal of sympathy for those of you at the sharp end who are trying to do your best to make life civilised and tolerable for the locals".

"And I'm quite sure that a great many locals do very much appreciate what you are trying to do for them," he said.

Television pictures showed Philip, wearing military uniform, talking to soldiers under camouflage netting.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said it was Philip's first visit to British soldiers in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion. Philip has already left Iraq, he said.

The visit comes as unrelenting violence in Iraq is putting intense pressure on US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to reconsider their strategy in Iraq.

- REUTERS

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