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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
US plans anti-Saddam training
US soldiers deploy to the region around Iraq
The US is preparing for a military showdown with Iraq

A senior US defence official has told the BBC that expanded training being planned for Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein could take place in around half a dozen countries.

President George W Bush has authorised the enhanced programme and the US Congress is being briefed.

The extra training for the Iraqi opposition looks like another major step in preparing for a possible military showdown with Saddam Hussein.


Iraqi opposition groups have been asked to submit lists of names but these still have to be fully screened by the Americans

Until now, the Americans have provided limited, non-lethal training, such as emergency medical courses.

The enhanced training could include combat-related activities that would help the recruits work with US forces.

The fact that it could take place across half a dozen different countries indicates the potential scale of the training effort.

The official would not reveal which countries might be involved, or whether all those being considered have actually been approached yet.

Post-war skills

He suggested they were countries which had indicated they would be ready to help, although he added that they were not necessarily "the obvious candidates", as he put it.
Main Iraqi opposition groups
Iraqi National Congress: founded in 1992 as umbrella group of mainly Kurdish and Shia opposition members
Iraqi National Accord: set up in 1990 by the Iraqi-born Shiite Ayad Alawi; consists mainly of military and security defectors
Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: comprises the two main Kurdish parties in northern Iraq
Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq: along with Kurdish union the main armed threat to Saddam Hussein

Pentagon officials say they are still working on what the programme would involve.

As well as possible combat-related training, it could include skills that might be useful in a post-war environment.

There has been speculation that between 5,000 and 10,000 recruits could be involved, but Pentagon officials say those figures are probably too high.

The numbers, and the training, will depend on how much time is available, as well as the skills of the recruits themselves.

Iraqi opposition groups have been asked to submit lists of names but these still have to be fully screened by the Americans.

Extensive budget

These moves all come under the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act passed by the US Congress.

That set aside $97 million to help the Iraqi opposition.

But until now only $5 million of that has been authorised, and less than a million dollars actually spent.


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