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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 20:50 GMT
Rumsfeld foresees swift Iraq war
Al-Rafah missile engine testing ground
Iraq says old equipment has been decommissioned
Any war with Iraq would be swift and not require a full US mobilisation, says US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The game is over

President Bush
He said war was still not inevitable, but noted that 12 years of international diplomacy had failed to disarm Iraq.

His comments come as senior UN disarmament officials prepared to return to Iraq with warnings that Baghdad must "drastically" improve its cooperation with the weapons teams.

It is not a game and it is not over

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Just hours before they were due to arrive, Iraqi officials said that three more scientists had given private interviews to arms experts.

Unmonitored interviews have been one of the inspectors' main demands. The first took place on Thursday, shortly after chief arms inspector Hans Blix warned Iraq that time was running out.

Fresh deployments

The US is meanwhile continuing its military build-up in the region, in the face of continued scepticism from key UN Security Council members France, China and Russia.

The latest deployments involve the 23,000 troops of the US army's crack 101st airborne division, and a fifth American aircraft carrier - the USS Kitty Hawk.

Britain has sent a third of its front-line combat jets.

More than 200,000 US military personnel are now in or on their way to the region along with about 40,000 British troops.

Quick campaign

Mr Rumsfeld is in Europe to try to gain backing for possible military action against Iraq.

"It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months," he said, speaking at the American air base at Aviano, in northern Italy.

Open in new window : Iraq facts
A statistical view of daily life in Iraq

"The forces have been flowing now for a good number of weeks and that has had its intended effect," he said.

Guards outside UN headquarters in Baghdad
Iraq has allowed the first private interview of a scientist
At a defence meeting involving Nato members and other countries in Germany this weekend, Mr Rumsfeld is likely to encounter renewed opposition from key allies.

"The game is over," President George W Bush declared on Thursday, as he urged hesitating allies to join in disarming Iraq.

But the French prime minister rejected Mr Bush's formula.

"It is not a game and it is not over," said Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

"There is another alternative to war."

French President Chirac, who spoke by telephone to President Bush on Friday, said that war was "the worst of all possible solutions".

"France considers that in between the inspection arrangements as they exist now and war, there are many, many ways to disarm Iraq," he said.

In a telephone conversation with the French leader, Chinese President Jiang Zemin echoed that position, saying: "The UN Security Council... should try to avoid war with all its might."

Open in new window : Powell's report
View the photographic evidence

The White House said that President Bush had begun working for a "serious, effective and acceptable" second UN resolution to authorise military action.

"The standard the president has set is that the second resolution must enforce the first resolution," said spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The US ambassador at the UN, John Negroponte, said while a second resolution was not a legal requirement it could be desirable from a political point of view.

Key visit

Mr Blix and the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, return to Baghdad on Saturday.

UN Security Council
For military action: US*, UK*, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France*, Russia*, China*, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution

*veto-wielding countries
In a week's time, the two men are due to present a key report on Iraqi co-operation, triggering what many believe could be a countdown to war.

"Time is critical and we need to show quick progress and we need to show drastic change on the part of Iraq in cooperation," said Mr ElBaradei.

On Thursday, inspectors spoke for three-and-a-half hours to Sinan Abdel-Hassan.

He said he had volunteered for the meeting "because of my love for my country, my people and my leader".

"I don't want to the United States or Britain to have a pretext to attack Iraq."

But Washington was unimpressed by the interview, noting that Mr Abdel Hassan works for the National Monitoring Directorate, which is responsible for liaising with the UN inspectors.

"The only one they're interviewing without a minder is a minder," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

UN officials say the key test will be when they can interview a scientist specifically chosen by the weapons inspectors.

It is unclear whether the three Iraqis who met UN officials on Friday were nominated by the authorities in Baghdad, or invited by the inspectors.

The BBC's David Chazan
"Talking war not peace"
President George W Bush
"The regime is persuing an elaborate campaign of hiding its weapons"

Key stories





See also:

07 Feb 03 | Middle East
07 Feb 03 | Middle East
24 Jan 03 | Middle East
24 Jan 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Americas
06 Feb 03 | Americas
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Politics
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Americas
06 Feb 03 | Media reports
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
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