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Sunday April 29 1:49 PM ET
By Chris Millar
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Ministry of Defense says it has paid for sex-change operations for as many as five serving soldiers.
A spokesman said on Saturday that ``a small number, no more than five'' soldiers had undergone gender reassignment operations funded by the ministry.
``The MoD medical services provide similar services to the military that are available to civilians on the National Health Service,'' he said.
``If the doctors treating a soldier think there is an appropriate and genuine need, then surgery is considered.
``There have been a small number of operations carried out. We do not have the surgical facilities for the surgery. It is carried out by the National Health Service,'' he said.
``If a doctor says surgery is appropriate because of the genuine psychological reasons it is considered...If the operation did not diminish the soldier's relevant job skills there is no reason why we would not keep them in the army.''
The spokesman would not reveal precisely how many soldiers had had the operation, only saying it was ``not more than five.''
He also confirmed that ``about 10'' members of the armed forces had been given free liposuction, to remove fat through a suction tube.
The Sunday Times said one soldier had had liposuction to his waist after he put on weight and his uniform ``started to chafe.''
Last week the ministry acknowledged it had paid for breast enlargements for four female soldiers since the start of last year.
A spokesman had defended the operations, saying: ``This is not done on purely cosmetic grounds, but as a last resort.
``A small number of soldiers may develop a recurring and chronic psychological problem which may be debilitating.''