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County's troops prepare for action

THE largest mobilisation of troops since the Second World War are being deployed from barracks in Kent to boost the British Army taskforce heading to confront Saddam Hussain.

An army spokesman confirmed that a fleet of around 100 vehicles had left the Maidstone headquarters of the 36 Royal Engineers for a military port near Southampton.

The 600 soldiers based at Maidstone are officially on standby and for the moment will remain at their Sandling Road barracks.

The spokesman refused to give details at the present time of how many troops, if any, will be joining the growing military taskforce.

The massive build-up of military might heading for the Gulf also includes a large contingent of infantry troops belonging to the Royal Irish Regiment, based at Canterbury's Howe Barracks. Canterbury are also supplying Army reservists from the 3rd battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment from Leros Barracks in Sturry Road.

The deployment from east Kent includes more than 1,000 troops belonging to the Parachute Regiment, based in Dover.

Defence secretary Geoff Hoon's announced this week his decision to send 30,000 ground troops to the Gulf in an attempt to persuade Saddam Hussein to give up his chemical and biological weapons.

An Army spokesman at Shorncliffe barracks, Folkestone, confirmed Kent was sending a larger deployment of land forces than had served in the Gulf War, the Falklands or during the Suez crisis.

The deployment of TA from the Leros Barracks is part of a national force of 1,500 reservists ordered into service for possible conflict. But others at Leros are on a state of high alert for possible call-up.

The 40,000-strong TA makes up a quarter of the total strength of the British Army.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair and George W Bush have both warned that time is running out for Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions.

Mr Blair confidently predicted the British public would back military action against Iraq if the Iraqi President failed to surrender his weapons of mass destruction.

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