LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is moving most civilian staff from its consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra to the airport because the threat of mortar and rocket attacks has increased, the Foreign Office said on Monday.
"Given the threat to the safety of civilian staff, we have decided temporarily to reduce the number of staff at our compound, including by relocating some to Basra airport," Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.
Britain has 7,200 troops in southern Iraq, mostly stationed in and around Basra. But the city remains dangerous with Shi'ite factions battling each other for control, and British troops occasionally caught in the middle.
Beckett said that the decision to move staff in Basra did not in anyway undermine Britain's commitment to Iraq.
"We will stay in Iraq until the job is done. We have adapted because we remain committed to the people of Basra and the elected Iraqi government," she said.
Beckett said the Consul General, the senior representative from the Department for International Development and a small team would stay put and that the decision to move other staff was not "irreversible".
"It is an operational decision and we fully respect operational decisions. What it does not mean in any way is a weakening of our resolve to do the job," said Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman.