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Prince Harry, youngest son of Prince Charles and Diana, the late Princess of Wales, shown in a Spartan armoured reconnaissance vehicle. ((Steve Dock/Associated Press))

Prince Harry will not deploy with his unit to Iraq, Britain's top general said Wednesday, ending a back-and-forth saga over whether the third in line to the British throne would be sent into a combat zone.

Britain's Ministry of Defence has long said the decision would be kept under review amid concerns for the security of Harry, a second lieutenant, and other soldiers serving with him.

"There have been a number of specific threats, some reported and some not reported. These threats exposed him and those around him to a degree of risk I considered unacceptable," said Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the army's chief of staff.

The decision reverses an earlier reported plan to deploy the 22-year-old to Iraq with his regiment, the Blues and Royals, which is due to begin a six-month tour of duty within weeks.

Clarence House, Prince Charles's London office, released a statement saying Harry was "very disappointed" with the decision, but would not quit the army.

Harry is a tank commander trained to lead a 12-person team in four armoured reconnaissance vehicles, and has expressed his desire toserve with his men.

"There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," he said in an interview after graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst last year.

"That may sound very patriotic, but it's true."

Decision could crush troop morale: military expert

The decision to pull Harry from Iraq could have a devastating impact on the morale of the British troops in the field, said Charles Heyman, a former British soldier and the editor of the book, Armed Forces of the UK.

"It will have a tremendous effect on morale right across the army," Heyman said. "Soldiers will say: 'If it's too dangerous for Prince Harry, then it's too dangerous for me. Is his life worth more than mine?' Well, from a political point of view, yes. But from a morale point of view, the answer is no."

Heyman said the effect on Prince Harry could be equally negative.

"If he didn't go to Iraq or Afghanistan, he'd be just about the only person in the British army who hadn't been on operations,"Heyman said. "As a combat soldier, he would have no credibility whatsoever."

Harry would have been the first member of the British Royal Family to serve in a war zone sincehis uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in Britain's conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982.

The media frenzy over Harry's potential deployment to Iraq briefly overshadowed coverage of hispartying lifestylein Britain's tabloid newspapers.

With files from the Associated Press