The UK said on Monday it was in talks with its allies about how to cope with the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq - a move which may lead to an expansion of British troop deployment.

   

With Spain planning to withdraw its 1400 soldiers, media reports suggested up to 2000 more British troops could be sent to Iraq on top of the 7500 already there.

 

   

"In light of recent events - the security situation and the anticipated withdrawal of the Spanish troops - we are in discussions with coalition partners," a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said.

   

She said no decisions had yet been made, but added: "Troop numbers is one of the things we will be discussing."

   

Monday's The Times newspaper said British troops might go to volatile cities such as Najaf, base of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army has launched an uprising against the US-led occupation.

 

Georgia move

   

The Georgian government in Tbilisi also said it planned to boost its military presence in Iraq to 550 soldiers from the current 150.

 

"The Georgian military will provide a full battalion for Iraq," ministry spokeswoman Nino Sturua said. She did not specify when the reinforcements will be sent.

   

Georgian servicemen are stationed in ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

   

The Caucasus state is a strategic US ally located on the route of a planned oil pipeline to pump Caspian Sea crude to the Mediterranean.