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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 03:11 GMT
US orders more troops to Gulf
US soldiers
The new troops are desert specialists
The United States is sending another 15,000 troops to the Gulf as part of its build-up for possible military action against Iraq.

The crack Third Infantry division, which specialises in desert warfare, has been ordered to the region.

It will be the first deployment of a full combat division as part of the build-up.

Weapons inspector
UN weapons inspectors plan to use helicopters
In Iraq, Western jets struck an Iraqi defence radar on Wednesday as pressure mounted on Saddam Hussein's government to disarm.

The US Army has already shipped much of the Third Infantry division's equipment to the Gulf and some elements have also been in Kuwait for training.

US Air Force units including B-1 bombers and F-15 strike aircraft are also being told to get ready to deploy.

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says that while the Bush administration is insisting that war is not a foregone conclusion, it is raising the military stakes.

Carriers deployed

In other signs of the military build-up, a giant US Navy hospital ship is due to set sail in the next few days.

The navy has also ordered an aircraft carrier which has been on its way home from the Gulf to be ready to remain at sea for the time being.

Another has been put on short notice alert and the navy has accelerated the training schedules of two others.

Our correspondent says that with the two already deployed in the region, that could mean six aircraft carriers could be available in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, US and British warplanes attacked an Iraqi mobile radar system after it entered the southern no-fly zone on Wednesday.

The radar near al-Qurnah, about 210 kilometres (130 miles) south-east of Baghdad, was a threat to coalition aircraft, the US central command said in a statement.

The Iraqi authorities said the planes attacked civilian installations and killed one person. The American statement made no mention of casualties.

Inspections widened

Also on Wednesday, United Nations weapons inspectors began the New Year searching four more suspect sites and said they planned to use helicopters to widen their operation.

A UN spokesman said inspectors also planned to set up a new regional base in the north of the country.

The UN says it is co-ordinating with Iraqi authorities to begin deploying helicopters, but Baghdad has made clear its displeasure.

A statement from the foreign ministry said it was shocked that the request came at the start of the New Year - an official holiday in Iraq.

But the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says the Iraqi authorities are expected to co-operate; they need a favourable judgement from the inspectors who must report back to the Security Council by 27 January.

The Iraqi sites inspected on Wednesday included a missile factory and a brewery which was visited by biological weapons experts.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Paul Adams
"The pressure on Iraq is growing"
  The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"It's the type of equipment that speaks loudly of war"

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01 Jan 03 | Middle East
31 Dec 02 | Middle East
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