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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 10:14 GMT
Pentagon to fund Iraqi groups
US tanks exercise in Kuwait
The US is preparing for military action in Iraq
United States President George W Bush has ordered the Pentagon to provide up to $92m in aid to groups opposed to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

US designated democratic opposition
Iraqi National Accord
Iraqi National Congress
Kurdistan Democratic Party
Movement for Constitutional Monarchy
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
The president directed the Defence Department to provide millions of dollars in hardware and military training to several opposition groups whose aim is to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Mr Bush has also formally designated six organisations as democratic opposition, making them eligible for US military aid:

This is the latest in a series of moves aimed at stepping up pressure on Iraq.

The order falls under the four-year old Iraq Liberation Act which states regime change in Baghdad as official US policy.

In search of support

The announcement comes as Iraqi opposition leaders have been meeting in Iran ahead of crucial talks later this week in London.

Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, in Tehran
Mr Chalabi also fell out with some Iraqi opposition leaders
The meeting was chaired by Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress.

He said a deal was reached to smooth out differences between the notoriously fractious Iraqi opposition leaders before the London meeting begins on Friday.

"[The London meeting] should present a united opposition... so we can proceed with the business of removing Saddam."

The conference had been delayed several times because of bickering among the exile groups over the agenda and composition of the meeting.

Correspondents say Mr Chalabi has some backing from hawks in the Bush administration, the Pentagon and Congress, but the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House have little enthusiasm for the Iraqi National Congress.

Mr Chalabi has also fallen out with some leaders within the Iraqi opposition.

The Kurdish and Islamist opposition chiefs accused him of seeking power while having no support inside Iraq.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Opposition groups have plenty to play for"
Iraqi affairs analyst, Dr Burhan Chalabi
"The opposition groups have no credibility whatsoever"
 VOTE RESULTS
Iraq: Is war inevitable?

Yes
 58.14% 

No
 41.86% 

74035 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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03 Dec 02 | Middle East
09 Dec 02 | Middle East
08 Dec 02 | Middle East
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