Foreign Office Minister in Brown Trousers Scare

Is this why Margaret "Medusa" Beckett is desperate to hand over to the Iraqis? Is she scared of having to take a helicopter trip herself in due course?

Minister in Iraq air 'incident'

Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells was involved in an incident as his helicopter left the Iraqi city of Basra at the weekend, it has been confirmed.

A Foreign Office spokesman would not confirm the nature of the incident, following reports that shots had been fired at the aircraft.

The helicopter, en route to Kuwait at the time, had to return to Basra after experiencing buffeting.

An investigation into the incident has been launched.

The UK has about 7,200 troops in and around Basra, Iraq's second biggest city.

An FO spokesman said Mr Howells had been on his way to Kuwait "when the helicopter lurched. No-one knows what caused it, but they turned back to Basra."

He added: "We can't say whether this was a security incident because we just don't know."

Chancellor Gordon Brown also visited Basra at the weekend and promised £100m extra in aid.

The area is considered dangerous, with Shiite factions battling each other for control.

But on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said the government had "confidence" it could be able to hand Basra's security to Iraqi forces "at some point next spring".

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