"The United States and South Korea have agreed that it is inevitable to change the location for South Korean troops as the security situation in Kirkuk has become worse," the defence ministry said in a statement in Seoul on Friday.

  

"The two countries agreed to reconsider a possible location putting the whole of Iraq under review."

 

South Korea's government agreed last month to dispatch more than 3,000 troops, mostly non-combatants to undertake rehabilitation work, to northern Iraq in phases, starting from next month.

  

Change of plan

 

Because of the change of plan, the dispatch is likely to be put off to no earlier than late June, a defence ministry source said.

 

The contingent will be the third-largest after the United States and Britain.

  

Washington had initially demanded a larger contingent and wanted South Korean troops to engage in pacification work.

 

"The two countries agreed to reconsider a possible location putting the whole of Iraq under review."

statement,

defence ministry, Seoul

But faced with the widespread unpopularity of the Iraq invasion in the country, South Korea resisted pressure for a bigger deployment and insisted its troops focus on repairing shattered infrastructure and providing medical help.

  

Some 400 South Korean non-combatants, including medics and engineers, are already serving in Iraq.

  

A motion passed by the South Korean parliament on 13 February designated a deployment period from April to the end of the year.

  

The decision to review the South Korean deployment came after Washington  asked Seoul to allow US combat troops to remain in the Kirkuk area, a position South Korea was unable to accept.

  

South Korea is now looking for a new location for its troop deployment "where the troops will be able to carry out peace and reconstruction efforts efficiently in a more stable atmosphere..."  

  

Powell visit

 

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Baghdad on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion. Powell's schedule includes meetings with the US occupation administrator Paul Bremer and members of the Iraqi governing council, before addressing a press conference.