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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 03:44 GMT 04:44 UK
Military role for Iraq opposition planned
US forces on exercises in the Gulf
US forces on exercises in the Gulf
The US appears to be preparing to expand its backing and training for Iraqi opposition groups.

US officials are reported to have said that the US military is planning to bring Iraqi opposition members into support roles for troops during an attack on Iraq.

President George Bush has made it absolutely clear that the US is going to seek "regime change" in Iraq - only the timing, circumstances and international backing for a military operation appear yet to be resolved.

At the United Nations in New York, there is as yet no sign of any new resolution on Iraq being ready for presentation to the Security Council.

Mr Bush has said that Saddam Hussein represents as much as a threat to the US as the al-Qaeda network.

Closer co-operation

Correspondents say that Washington does not see the various Iraqi opposition groups as a viable force that might oppose Saddam Hussein militarily - in the style of the Northern Alliance opposition forces in Afghanistan.


There is clearly much more that can be done under the Iraq Liberation Act... The Defense Department is presently determining to what extent our level of effort under the act should be increased

Lynn Cassel
State Department spokeswoman
Closer co-operation and co-ordination with the Iraqi opposition appears to be what the US is proposing.

A State Department spokeswoman said Washington plans to expand the training it provides to the Iraqi opposition but had not decided how far it should go.

The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 gave the US Government authority to provide the opposition with goods and services worth up to $97 million, including training.

Only $1 million of this has so far been used, and more than 100 members of the opposition have received training.

Saddam Hussein
Defiant: Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV on Tuesday
"There is clearly much more that can be done under the Iraq Liberation Act... The Defense Department is presently determining to what extent our level of effort under the act should be increased," said the state department's Lynn Cassel.

Another US official, quoted by the Reuters news agency, said: "The way to think about it is not as a 10,000-strong army but how opposition can be brought in support roles, which would be as interpreters, guides, liaison with local population and local advisers."

"This is a significant step but we're not providing arms to a surrogate military force," another official told Reuters.

'Combat training'

The Los Angeles Times has reported that the White House is expected to seek congressional approval for the move soon.

UN Security Council
The US is looking for a tough new resolution on Iraq
An Iraqi opposition source in London is reported by Reuters to have said the US has asked the Iraqi opposition to prepare lists of candidates for possible military training in tasks that would help US forces attacking Iraq.

The source said that the US is seeking between 5,000 and 10,000 people, but suggested that Washington was proposing to train Iraqi opposition members in combat roles.

The US administration under President Bill Clinton was very wary of backing the Iraqi opposition which it regarded as ineffective and without support inside Iraq.

The current administration has sought to rehabilitate the Iraqi opposition.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Robbins
"President Bush is forcing the pace"
The BBC's Nick Childs
"This is an exercise but it could soon be for real"
The Non-Proliferation Project's Joseph Cirincione
"Everyone's asking if there's any role for NATO here and why the US isn't asking for their help"

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25 Sep 02 | Americas
25 Sep 02 | Middle East
25 Sep 02 | Middle East
25 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
04 Mar 02 | Middle East
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