London, Sept. 14 (Reuters): Britain launched today its biggest army exercise on home ground since 1998 — but defence officials insisted it was not a sabre-rattling trial run for war against Iraq.
In a test of their logistical skills, up to 6,000 troops are using 1,000 vehicles to transport thousands of tonnes of material and equipment across the country. “Exercise Log Viper has started. It is now under way,” a defence ministry spokesman said. But he was quick to insist:“It has nothing to do with Iraq, I can assure you of that.” He said that the four-week exercise “has been planned for over a year”.
“When the army carries out an exercise, you can rest assured it is not planned overnight. This is the largest UK-based army exercise since 1998,” the spokesman said. Army chiefs said the main aim of the logistical test was “to provide the opportunity to ensure we can feed, clothe and maintain supplies, vehicles and weaponry when required”. Despite assurances the long-planned exercise had nothing to do with Iraq, military experts said the warning to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be clear.