Prince Charles Visits British Troops in Iraq

By Donna Miles

Britain’s Prince Charles paid a surprise visit to Iraq to express gratitude and praise to the British troops deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom for maintaining security in southern Iraq and supporting the war on terror.

British Embassy officials in Washington said the prince arrived at the Al- Sarraji Palace compound in Basra — once Saddam Hussein’s palace and now an operational headquarters for British troops — for the first visit by a member of the British royal family to Iraq since the former dictator’s ouster from power.

Some 9,000 British soldiers are serving in Iraq, with 4,500 of them based in Basra, forming part of the 20th Armoured Brigade.

Arriving in a Chinook helicopter, the Prince of Wales — dressed in desert camouflage and wearing a beret — mingled with soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Wales, the Parachute Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, and the Army Air Corps regiments and thanked them for their service in Iraq.

Britain’s Prince Charles (R) is presented with a customized shirt at the Saudi Sports Federation complex for special needs, on the outskirts of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The Prince is seen on an official trip to the Middle East. The following day he made a surprise vist to give praise to British troops in Iraq.

John Stillwell / Reuters

"This part of the world doesn’t have much chance unless their armed force can learn a lot from your experience," he was quoted as telling the troops, "not only in the military, but in the hearts and minds."

The prince also presented the Wilkinson Sword of Peace to the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment for its peacekeeping efforts following the conflict in Afghanistan.

"I was enormously impressed by what you managed to achieve," the prince told the soldiers. "I hope you feel there is some sense of reward for the difference you managed to make for so many people who live in Kabul."

He also lauded the soldiers for setting up a football match in Afghanistan, saying British troops "have a great way of conducting that all-important hearts-and-minds campaign."

After his speech, officials said, the soldiers jumped to attention in a semicircle around the prince and gave three loud cheers, raising their berets in the air with each call.

Prince Charles also met with Iraqi officials to discuss political and economic issues in post-war Iraq. Among those he visited were Judge Wail Abl al-Latif, provincial governor and member of the Iraqi Governing Council, and Gabriel Qassab, the Catholic archbishop of Iraq.