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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 17:08 GMT
Cheney prepares US troops for action
US Vice President Dick Cheney addresses troops in Egypt
The US should not be threatened, Mr Cheney said
US Vice President Dick Cheney has told American troops in Egypt to prepare for the second phase of the "war against terrorism".

The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide

Dick Cheney

Officials travelling with him reiterated America's threat to respond "with any means" against Iraq should President Saddam Hussein attack again.

Iraqi media, meanwhile, raised the prospects of war while calling on the US to talk rather than shoot first.

US President George W Bush announced the "second phase" of his war against terrorism on Monday - the six-month anniversary of the 11 September attacks - and Mr Cheney carried the message to Egypt, the latest stop on his 10-nation mission.

Mr Cheney is travelling around the Middle East trying to get Arab support for any strike against the regime in Baghdad as well as addressing Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Nuclear strike

"Our next objective is to prevent terrorists and regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction," Mr Cheney told the troops gathered at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein receives a Kurdish honour
Saddam Hussein: the next target?

"The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide."

Iraq is firmly in US sights after Mr Bush put it in his "axis of evil" and with Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to meet United Nations demands for weapons inspections.

A senior US official told a BBC correspondent travelling with Mr Cheney that a nuclear strike - first mooted when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 - remained an option should Iraq attack Americans with chemical or biological weapons.

It was not clear what the strategy might be if Saddam acted against a US ally such as Israel.

Our correspondent said it was hard to imagine the US using nuclear weapons that would kill tens of thousands of people but, by not ruling out the possibility, the Bush administration might be hoping to deter Saddam from rash action.

Cheney's tour
Saudi Arabia

An Iraqi weekly newspaper warned that the US might attack Iraq "before or shortly after" the Arab summit scheduled for 27-28 March in Beirut.

The attack would be launched "without waiting for the resumption of dialogue between Iraq and the United Nations" by the end of April, al-Iqtissadi said.

But the daily Babel newspaper, run by Saddam's elder son Uday, called on the US to use dialogue not threats to resolve problems.

Volatile region

All that Baghdad was seeking from Washington was "to respect Iraq's legitimate rights and interests," the paper wrote.

"Solutions imposed by the force of arms" cannot be lasting, it warned.

Mr Cheney is discussing with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak progress in the US-led war on terror, and plans for taking the campaign outside Afghanistan where fighting is believed to be winding down.

Mr Cheney met King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman before flying on to Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
President Mubarak is an influential US ally
Correspondents say King Abdullah warned that military action against Iraq could plunge the volatile region into turmoil but appears to have failed to convince the US vice president.

Egypt has been an important Arab ally of the US war against terror and has provided intelligence support.

But a US attack on an Arab neighbour would be unpopular and Mr Mubarak is expected to push for non-military pressures to be continued against Saddam.

Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak
"It is of vital importance to maintain the sovereignty of Iraq"
US Vice President, Dick Cheney
"We appreciate Egypt's leadership on behalf of peace in the Middle East"
See also:

12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney warned over Iraq attack
12 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Cheney and Blair give Iraq warning
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
07 Mar 02 | Middle East
Iraq keeps talking on arms inspectors
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
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