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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Iraq 'ready for war'
no-fly
US and UK jets enforce no-fly zones above Iraq
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said his country was ready to defend itself, as US President George W Bush stepped up expectations of a military attack to topple Saddam Hussein.

"President Bush and his government did not bring the Iraqi leadership to power, therefore they cannot remove the Iraqi leadership," he said after a visit to South Africa.

"We are very well prepared to defend the country against any kind of aggression."

He spoke after Mr Bush said that he would use "all tools" at his disposal to oust Saddam Hussein.

"It's a stated policy of this government to have a regime change. And it hasn't changed," he told a news conference on Monday.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein remains defiant on weapons inspectors
Mr Bush has accused Saddam Hussein of developing biological and chemical weapons and described Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, as belonging to an "axis of evil."

Last month, he was reported to have given the Central Intelligence Agency extra powers to conduct covert operations against the Iraqi leader, including the possible use of special forces teams inside Iraq.

Speculation of US action against the Baghdad government has been growing since the 11 September attacks on the US.

Hawkish sections of the Bush administration have done little to disguise their belief that Iraq will at some point be included in its war on terrorism.

Allies' fears

However, concern has been growing among US allies at Mr Bush's unilateralist approach.

sanctions
Sanctions will stay in place until the inspectors issue is resolved
Such concerns grew more acute last week when talks aimed at putting United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq broke down.

Accounting for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is key to suspending 12-year-old UN sanctions, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Mr Bush declined on Monday to comment on a New York Times report about a draft military plan for an invasion of Iraq.

The report said an attack would involve tens of thousands of US Marines and soldiers, probably invading from Kuwait.

He said: "Listen, I recognise there's speculation out there, but people shouldn't speculate about the desire of the government to have a regime change," Bush said. "And there's different ways to do it."

The United States has frequently clashed militarily with the Iraqi leader since leading a coalition force in 1991 to expel him from Kuwait.

US and UK jets monitoring air exclusion zones imposed on Iraq in the north and south of the country, have launched several attacks on Iraqi missile sites after being targeted by those sites.

The no-fly zones were set up in 1992 to protect Iraq's Shi'ite Muslims, who are based mainly south of Baghdad and its Kurdish community in the north.


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07 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 May 02 | Americas
23 May 02 | Europe
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
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