Prince Harry will be serving as a soldier in Iraq by the end of the month, a British newspaper reported Saturday, though government officials called the story speculative.

The Daily Mirror newspaper — citing an unnamed senior military official — reported that Defense Secretary Des Browne is expected to announce Feb. 26 that the prince, who is third in line to the throne, will be deployed along with his regiment near Basra in southern Iraq.

A royal family spokesman declined to comment and the Defense Ministry called the report speculative, saying upcoming Iraq deployments had yet to be finalized.

The 22-year-old prince, known as Troop Commander Wales by his regiment — the Blues and Royals — has trained to command 11 soldiers and four Scimitar tanks.

The Defense Ministry has previously confirmed Harry could go to Iraq if his unit was deployed there, but said he might be kept out of situations where his presence would jeopardize his comrades.

Harry's brother Prince William, training as a troop leader within the Blues and Royals, cannot be deployed to war zones because he is second in line to the British crown.

Britain has 7,000 troops based in southern Iraq and plans to reduce numbers through the course of 2007, government officials have said.

Harry, who graduated last year from Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, said in a 2005 interview that he was keen to fight for his country.

"There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," he said.

In joining the military, Harry followed a royal tradition: Charles was a pilot with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy.

Harry's uncle, Prince Andrew, was a Royal Navy pilot and served in the Falklands war against Argentina.