British troops could be moved to Baghdad (search) to provide cover for American troops as they carry out offensive operations against insurgents in Fallujah (search) and elsewhere in the country, media reports said Saturday.
The move would be the first time that British troops have been deployed outside southern Iraq.
The Ministry of Defense has confirmed it was discussing coalition troop deployments in Iraq with the country's interim government and U.S. officials but said no decisions had been made.
The Times newspaper said officers from Britain's Black Watch regiment who are currently serving in Basra, a relatively peaceful city in southern Iraq, notified their troops about a possible move to Baghdad.
BBC TV (search) said that around 650 troops from the regiment would be sent to the Sunni Triangle around Baghdad, where the majority of attacks against international forces have occurred. It said the British troops would be under U.S. command and rules of engagement.
U.S. commanders have been saying they may launch an offensive to uproot insurgents who have taken control of Fallujah and other cities in the Sunni Triangle. Militants have strengthened their hold on Fallujah since U.S. Marines pulled back from a bloody three-week siege in April aimed at wresting back control of the city.
The media reports said British troops would be deployed to fill in for U.S. forces moved to take part in any new assault.
Nicholas Soames, defense spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, demanded a clear statement from the Ministry of Defense.
Soames said British commanders should be more involved in security planning if Britain took a larger role in Iraq.
"The concept of peacekeeping is one that is alien to our American friends. They don't use the same tactics as we do and that is their business," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today Program.
Robin Cook, who resigned from Blair's Cabinet in protest against the war, said that British troops deployed in the U.S. sector could find themselves associated with the more aggressive tactics used by the Americans.
"For a year Britain has been trying in vain to persuade U.S. forces to show the same restraint as our troops, who have won a lot of local goodwill as a result," he said.
"The last time US forces attacked Fallujah they left 1,000 civilians dead and uproar across Iraq at their heavy handed tactics," he said. "There is a danger that if Britain frees up U.S. forces for the next assault we may be held equally responsible by Iraqis for what happens to the residents of Fallujah."