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Hammond to visit Gulf allies in stand against Isis gains

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is to embark on a tour of Gulf states in a show of British support in the face of Isis's advances in Iraq.

Philip Hammond will tour the Middle East to drum up political support against Isis gains. Credit: PA

Mr Hammond will meet ministers from of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar during his two-day visit to the region starting tomorrow.

"The UK is deeply concerned by the recent developments in Iraq and the gains made by Isis.

"Although the UK is not planning a military intervention, we are committed to finding a long-term political solution," Mr Hammond said.

"We remain committed to the security of the Gulf, and want to reassure our friends and allies that we will do everything possible to support those who are working for a stable and democratic Iraqi state and to alleviate humanitarian suffering."

UK to send a 'small team' to Baghdad embassy

Defence secretary Philip Hammond has said that the UK will be "putting a small team" in the British Baghdad embassy, to increase awareness and help plan for possible emergency situations.

Mr Hammond also said that the British government will only give "technical advice" to Iraq at this stage, which will be delivered through either military or civilian methods.

The statement comes after increased sectarian violence in the north of Iraq by Islamic militants.

More: US and Iran 'prepare for direct talks' over Iraqi situation

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Hammond: UK to give 'technical assistance to Iraq'

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said the government will give technical assistance to Iraq, but ultimately this is an "Iraq problem."

Mr Hammond, speaking at RAF Odiham in Hampshire said:

We are going to give all the support we can to the Iraqi government, technical support and advice.

But the Foreign Secretary has made it clear we don't have any intention of putting British boots on the ground.

This is an Iraqi problem and has to be solved in Iraq. But we'll provide all the assistance we can from a technical standpoint.

– Defence Secretary Philip Hammond

More: US and Iran 'prepare for direct talks' over Iraqi situation

Malaysia using 'all available assets' in missing Brit search

"All available search assets" are being used to find a British man missing in the Malaysian jungle, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been assured.

The Foreign Office said Mr Hammond, who has arrived in the country, was told Malaysian authorities would do everything possible to find 34-year-old Gareth Huntley.

Missing Briton Gareth Huntley pictured with his girlfriend Kit Natariga.
Missing Briton Gareth Huntley pictured with his girlfriend Kit Natariga. Credit: Family handout/PA Wire

An FCO spokesman said: "The Defence Secretary, who is in Malaysia, has spoken to the Malaysian Defence Minister this morning to confirm that all available search assets are used to find Gareth Huntley.

"The Government will continue to work with the Malaysian authorities to ensure there is a comprehensive search."

Read: Hammond discusses missing Brit with Malaysian counterpart

Hammond discusses missing Brit with Malaysia minister

Malaysian defence minister Hishamuddin Hussein said he has spoken to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond about the search for a British man missing in the Malaysian jungle.

Mr Gareth Huntley, 34, from London, has not been seen since Tuesday morning when he went alone on a trek on Tioman Island.

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Doing it. Informed Sec Hammond this morn in our bilateral “@azliabaz: H2O help find G Huntley,missing in Tioman.” http://t.co/jtTrUUw11E

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Read: Girlfriend 'petrified' over missing Briton in Malaysia

RAF Hercules joins search for missing British sailors

An RAF Hercules aircraft is travelling to join the search for the four missing British yachtsmen, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

We can confirm that the UK will be providing military assistance in the search for the four British sailors.

A C130 Aircraft was deployed from RAF Brize Norton at 0500 on 21 May and has started to move towards the search area where it will join the international Search and Rescue effort.

– MOD spokesperson

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

The RAF's contribution to the search operation for the four missing British sailors will provide additional capability and resilience to the resumed search led by U.S. and Canadian forces.

We all hope that the extensive resources being provided by our allies and the further support from the UK can help locate the missing yachtsmen as soon as possible.

– Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary

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Army chief sets key issue for review on women's roles

General Sir Peter Wall, who will lead the armed forces review into whether to lift the ban on women serving in combat roles, has said the key issue in determining the outcome would be the "delivery of operational effectiveness".

Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall has said the Army should "seriously consider" lifting its ban on women serving in combat roles. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The review into whether to lift the bar on women joining the infantry and the Royal Armoured Corps was brought forward by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

The Ministry of Defence had been required to review its existing policy on the deployment of women by 2018 under EU equality laws.

Watch: Dannatt says front line 'not the right place' for women

Dannatt: Front line violence 'not right place' for women

The former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, has told ITV News he believes female soldiers should not be allowed to serve in front line roles.

Gen Dannatt, who led the Army from 2006 to 2009, said combat situations in which units attack with "violence, bayonets and machine guns" are "not the right place" for women to be.

Read: Review begun into female soldiers' front line role

Hammond: We must look at female soldiers' role again

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said the armed forces must review the role female soldiers can play in combat situations to ensure women know the organisation is "fully open" to them.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said perceptions of the armed forces as the "last bastion of male chauvinism" are wrong. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive

Mr Hammond said the reality of the armed forces is "very different" from the "macho image" that he said many continue to apply to it.

But he said the restrictions on women in combat situations is "something we have to look at again", in part because of the "message" it sends to women "who might be looking to join other parts of the military".

Review begun into female soldiers filling combat roles

by - Political Correspondent

It is a move that the head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, has already suggested might make the armed forces "look more normal" - and it seems Defence Secretary Philip Hammond now agrees.

He has ordered a review of whether women should be allowed into combat to start immediately, and wants a report on his desk by the end of the year.

Earlier he told journalists that if the US, Australia and even France had women in combat roles, it was time for Britain to look at the policy again.

Army chief Sir Peter Wall said women "need to see they have equal opportunities" throughout the armed forces. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Archive

Currently, there are more than 16,000 women in the armed forces but about 30 per cent of roles are closed to them.

The Defence Secretary says he does not envisage the numbers who apply will be that large but suggests it is time to send a signal that the army is open "to all who can meet the standards required".

It is also true that if the change does go ahead next year, it will not harm the Government's attempts to appeal to women voters in the run up to the General Election.

Read: Women in combat should be 'seriously considered'

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