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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 12:09 GMT
Rumsfeld woos Iraqi forces
Iraqi soldiers
Rumsfeld says many of the troops are hostages
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested that Iraqi soldiers who stay in their barracks if there is a US-led invasion will be left alone.

His remarks follow previous comments by President George W Bush and other senior officials, calling publicly on the army to defy orders to use any weapons of mass destruction if there were an attack.


People who do not engage in the use of weapons of mass destruction or attack coalition forces will not have problems

Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Rumsfeld said the international community would wait for a pattern of behaviour to emerge before deciding what action to take against Iraq.

Speaking on his way to a meeting of regional defence ministers in Chile, Mr Rumsfeld said that the duration of any conflict would depend on the Iraqi people.

"It is certainly correct that people who stay in their barracks, that people who do not engage in the use of weapons of mass destruction or attack coalition forces will not have problems," Mr Rumsfeld said as he arrived in Santiago.

Elite guard

However, he warned that there would be no leniency towards those who did use such weapons.

"Let there be no doubt. Anyone who is involved in the use of weapons of mass destruction will be particularly held accountable in the event it becomes necessary," Mr Rumsfeld said.

Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: There will be no mercy for aggressors

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, who is travelling with Mr Rumsfeld, said that the US is extremely concerned about the use of chemical and biological weapons in the event of a conflict.

So, our correspondent says, officials from Mr Bush downwards have been calling publicly on the army not to follow any orders to do so.

Mr Rumsfeld said large parts of the army and other sections of the Iraqi administration - for example the police and civilian services - were being held hostage by the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and a small clique of his closest supporters and family.

The Iraqi army has more than 350,000 troops, but it is the highly-trained Republican Guards surrounding the president who, analysts predict, could pose the biggest problem.

"There are very elite elements that are very close to a personal guard for the family (of the Iraqi leader) and the clique who are not hostages, who are benefiting from the regime and who are enabling Saddam Hussein and his family to rule that country," Mr Rumsfeld said.


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15 Nov 02 | Americas
14 Nov 02 | Middle East
23 Sep 02 | In Depth
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