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Friday, November 13, 1998 Published at 17:01 GMT


Iraq could rearm 'in months'

USS Enterprise: Ordered to the Gulf early

The United States has warned that Iraq will be able to rebuild its weapons programme in a matter of months unless the international community takes action over its obstruction of UN weapons inspections.

Standoff with Baghdad
State Department spokesman James Rubin said President Saddam Hussein could not be allowed to block the inspections indefinitely.

"If we fail to act he will feel emboldened to threaten the region further, armed with weapons of mass destruction," he said.


James Rubin: It could be months not years
His comments came as President Clinton again met senior advisers to discuss military options.

Among those present were the US Defence Secretary, William Cohen, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Henry Shelton.

The White House says no decision has yet been made on the possible use of force, but President Clinton has ordered the accelerated deployment of a replacement naval force in the Gulf.


[ image: UN inspectors leaving Baghdad on Monday]
UN inspectors leaving Baghdad on Monday
A naval battle-group led by the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is on its way to the Gulf to replace the USS Eisenhower and the president has instructed it to arrive on 23 November, three days earlier than planned.

He has also approved the deployment of a second group of amphibious assault ships in the region.

Mr Cohen said he was confident there would be more international support for any necessary action than there had been in the past.

Iraq criticises neighbours


[ image: International Atomic Energy Agency continue to do their job in Baghdad]
International Atomic Energy Agency continue to do their job in Baghdad
Meanwhile, Iraq has criticised Gulf states following Mr Cohen's visit to the region last week.

The Al-Iraq newspaper lashed out at Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman saying they should not have allowed Mr Cohen to issue threats against Baghdad.

The official Iraqi news agency, INA, also quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahaf as saying Baghdad was not seeking an escalation in tension and was contacting France, Russia and China to help resolve the latest confrontation with UN weapons inspectors.



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