SOLDIERS from the first battalion of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment have started training for a four-month tour in Iraq .

It will focus on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

The soldiers, who are based at Catterick, North Yorkshire, will deploy to the Gulf as part of 19 Mechanized Brigade which will be taking over from 7 Armoured Brigade -- the Deserts Rats -- in July.

Now that combat operations are complete, the coalition forces are focusing on stabilisation operations.

The task for the QLR troops will be to provide a safe and secure environment to help the Iraqi people to rebuild their nation.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Mendonca said: "We do not underestimate the resistance still encountered in some areas of Iraq or the humanitarian and security tasks that face us.

"There is still a lot of work to be done and we are committed to seeing it through.

"The QLR will contribute towards the consolidation of a secure environment wthin Iraq to enable the development of Iraq's political structures."

The battalion will also be taking up to 100 Territorial Army reservists from the Lancastrian and Cumbrian Volunteers.

Captain John Harker, second -in-command Burma Company, said: "The soldiers are excited about the deployment.

"Our training is being tailored to suit the evolving operational environment. In addition, desert survival techniques are high on our list of priorities."

The regiment expects to return at the end of October and after taking post operational leave they will start immediate preparations for a two-year posting to Cyprus.