SCOUTING stealthily through disused houses and scrutinising empty lanes in North Yorkshire could seem a world away from the sweltering volatile streets of Iraq.

But East Lancashire lads are now training intensely in a mock-up village at Catterick Garrison preparing to carry out a job of global importance.

The Queen's Lancashire Regiment will deploy to Iraq's second city Basra in the middle of June to take-over from the Desert Rats who have spent months fighting Saddam's regime.

The regiment have the crucial job of re-establishing law and order on the streets of Basra and maintaining calm as the society attempts to grow stronger and safer.

The four month tour in Iraq will involve humanitarian and peace-keeping tasks. The training therefore focuses a lot on communication with the Iraqi people.

Using interpreters and members of the regiment dressed-up as Iraqis the troops from Burma Company were yesterday learning to deal with potentially dangerous situations.

Actors ran out of buildings or cars firing blanks while the soldiers attempted to act as effectively and as peacefully as possible without escalating violence.

The Lancashire soldiers have for the past two weeks even been learning Arabic, in particular key phrases such as 'Stop', 'Drop your weapon', 'No' and 'Yes'.

Those in command acknowledge the task is a difficult one and it has fallen on the shoulders of many young East Lancashire men.

One such lad is Private Lee Birch, 18, from Wimberley Street, Revidge in Blackburn.

Lee has been in the regiment for just eight months, after joining army training from Pleckgate High School.

His younger sister Natasha, 11, cried when he told her he was going to Iraq but that has not stopped him from wanting to go.

He said: "I am looking forward to it. We are going to support Iraqis and help the people there. But I am scared as well.

"My mum she's scared for me too but I joined the army to prove to my family and friends and myself that I can do it."

Lance Corporal Pete McKenna, 22, of Punstock Road, Darwen, has been on two previous tours in his six years in the regiment.

He said: "It's about having a good bunch of lads who you go with, so us older lads can support the younger ones."

Blackburn-born Major John Lighten, 36, who is in charge of Burma Company, had just returned from Iraq on a reconnaissance mission.

He said: "People there are worried about an absence of security and law and order.

"Our job is a difficult one. Yet we are confident we can help create the conditions for Iraq to move seamlessly into a democratic society."