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 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 23:50 GMT
US accelerates Gulf build-up
US troops prepare to leave for Kuwait
Around 150,000 troops have been ordered to the Gulf
The United States is dramatically accelerating its build-up in the Gulf, with the deployment of another 27,000 troops.

A senior Pentagon official told the BBC that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had signed his second order in 24 hours, adding to 35,000 personnel who were deployed on Friday.

USS Comfort
The USS Comfort hospital ship has already been sent to the Gulf
The official said that these new reinforcements meant the Americans could have around 150,000 personnel in and around the Gulf by the end of next month.

The announcement coincides with reports of a skirmish in cyberspace between Iraq and the US, which has resulted in Baghdad blocking e-mails sent from America.

The messages, which are written in Arabic, have been sent by the Pentagon to military and civilian leaders in Iraq, to try to persuade them to turn against President Saddam Hussein.

They urge Iraqis to reveal the locations of any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and to refuse to obey the president's orders.

The e-mails apparently circulated for several days before being blocked.

Wide set of options

BBC Pentagon correspondent Nick Childs says the US intention is to keep up pressure on Baghdad which, Washington says, has weapons of mass destruction.

The latest additions to the US build-up are thought to be mainly army and air force units.

The forces, which are not expected to leave immediately, will ultimately give US President George W Bush a wide set of military options.

Our correspondent says these latest deployment orders are confirmation that the build-up has moved into a significant new phase.

Having spent weeks and months painstakingly stocking up equipment and supplies in the region, the Pentagon is now beginning to move large numbers of combat troops and air power - the key elements of any attack force.

It is believed that the Pentagon is ultimately aiming for a force of a 250,000.

Ark Royal leaves

The 35,000 reinforcements ordered on Friday include marines, who would spearhead any possible invasion force.

The troops are being sent to the Gulf in three amphibious warfare ships.

The American deployment comes as the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal set sail for the Gulf in the biggest British naval deployment since the Falklands War.

The UK Ministry of Defence insists that the role of what will be 8,000 troops in the Gulf has not been decided, but it is clear that it could assist the US in some form of amphibious assault on Iraq.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Guto Harri
"Concern is mounting on both sides of the Atlantic"

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12 Jan 03 | Politics
12 Jan 03 | Europe
10 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Politics
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Dec 02 | Business
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