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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 19:14 GMT
Rumsfeld cautious on Iraqi compliance
Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks in Qatar
Rumsfeld addressed US troops in Qatar
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said it is still too early to decide whether Iraq is co-operating with the international community over disarmament.

Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq's declaration on its weapons programme was one indication that it was complying with UN demands, but more time was needed to study the document.

He was addressing American troops in the Gulf state of Qatar, which is hosting a major US-led military exercise that is seen as a rehearsal for a possible war with Iraq.

Computerised command-centre in Qatar
The US is involved in a huge computer-based exercise
Journalists were for the first time allowed to see a base where the secret training is underway.

More than 250 British forces are also involved in the operation, which is codenamed 'Internal Look'.

Military officials deny there is any connection to events in Iraq.

However the BBC's Peter Biles in Qatar says the exercise is widely seen as part of preparations for a possible war with Iraq.

While in Qatar, Mr Rumsfeld also signed a new military pact upgrading the bases used by American forces.

Addressing US troops, the defence secretary did not mention Baghdad in his initial remarks, which highlighted Washington's war of terror.

He was asked about Iraq's co-operation with the weapons inspectors during a question-and-answer session but observers described his comments about Iraq as remarkably low-key.

He said it would take time to study the 12,000-page Iraqi declaration - which was handed over last weekend.

Tests

Mr Rumsfeld said the document was only one indication that Iraq was responding to the latest UN resolution on disarmament.

Another test, he said, would be whether the Iraqis continued to fire on US and British aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zones over northern and southern Iraq.

Open in new window : Military balance
Iraqi and US forces in the region

Flanked by General Tommy Franks - who will lead any US assault against Iraq - Mr Rumsfeld said it would be "out of line" for him to make a judgement on Iraqi co-operation at this stage.

"Time will tell," he added.

The two men are overseeing operation Internal Look - a war games exercise that is held every two years, involving US, British and other nations' troops.

The exercise involves practising how to set up a mobile command headquarters thousands of miles from home.

The US already has 4,000-5,000 soldiers in the tiny Gulf state which is fast becoming one of Washington's most important allies in the region.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams reports from Qatar
"When it comes to war the Americans do not expect to fight alone"
The BBC's Peter Biles
"The US Defence Secretary received an enthusiastic welcome"
The BBC's Nick Childs
"The Americans will be very pleased that a lot of attention is being paid to this exercise"

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13 Dec 02 | Middle East
12 Dec 02 | Middle East
09 Dec 02 | Middle East
08 Nov 02 | Africa
26 Nov 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Middle East
11 Dec 02 | Africa
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