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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 14:12 GMT
US 'ready for Iraq war'
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: American and UK troops are ready
The United States says it has enough forces in place to attack Iraq as soon as the order is given.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there were "ample" US and other troops in the Gulf ready for military action.

The US has also been hoping to hear whether its key ally Turkey will accept billions of dollars in compensation in exchange for US troops using its territory in a war with neighbouring Iraq.

In what is seen as a strong indication that Ankara may well back the US, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said on Friday that talks would produce results in "coming days", implying that parliament would soon vote on the issue.

In other developments:

  • French President Jacques Chirac reaffirms his opposition to war and says the crisis can still be ended peacefully, shortly after sending two Mirage spy planes to help UN inspectors hunt for banned weapons

  • US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he would introduce a new resolution on Iraq to the UN next week, while insisting there was already authorisation for military action

  • UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold talks with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi - both men strongly back the US position

  • Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will hold talks with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas

  • Inspectors visit Iraqi sites involved in producing the controversial al-Samoud missiles - chief inspector Hans Blix is to demand that Iraq destroy them

The US and Britain - its main ally - now have more than 150,000 troops in the region along with dozens of warships and hundreds of aircraft.

More soldiers and equipment are being deployed by the US, Britain and other nations.

Royal Marines from the UK's 3 CDO Brigade patrolling the perimeters of Camp Rhino, Kuwait
150,000 US troops in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia - including Afghanistan
70,000 of these are in Kuwait
35,000 British ground and air forces to be deployed in the region

When asked if the build-up was now sufficient for war, Mr Rumsfeld said "yes". He declined to reveal exact numbers of personnel but characterised the forces in the region as "ample".

"We are at a point where, if the president makes that decision [to attack], the Department of Defense is prepared and has the capabilities and the strategy to do that."

Mr Powell told the BBC's Newsnight programme that the UN Security Council resolution passed last November authorised the use of force to ensure that Saddam Hussein had no banned weapons of mass destruction.

But he said he would introduce a second resolution next week to the Security Council, which now appears split over whether to allow inspectors more time to verify Iraq's disarmament claims.

Where the key nations stand on military conflict in Iraq

"It will be a resolution that summarises the situation... as it exists - shows that Iraq is not in compliance," Mr Powell said.

"I think the resolution will point out that lack of co-operation."

He said there was unlikely to be a specific deadline set for compliance, but added: "Clearly time is running out".

Turkish demands

Mr Gul's latest comments, which came shortly after the US ambassador said obstacles were being overcome, are likely to significantly raise hopes in Washington that the deal will be tied up shortly.

A US State Department spokesman said the two countries had been working to restructure the package, said to be worth about $6bn in grants and up to $20bn in loan guarantees.

The BBC correspondent in Ankara says the government has delayed answering the US request, hoping for a better deal.

The US already uses air bases in Turkey to launch patrols of Iraq's northern no-fly zone.

Popular opinion in Turkey is almost totally opposed to a war on Iraq.

Turkey argues that its economy suffered a loss of tens of billions of dollars as a result of the 1991 Gulf War, and that it had little input in subsequent decisions affecting the area, particularly northern Iraq.

Turkey was also at the heart of a split in Nato, which the alliance's secretary general Lord Robertson admitted had been damaging.

France, Germany and Belgium initially blocked US plans to send defensive equipment to Turkey, but agreement was eventually reached to send help.



The BBC's Paul Adams
"The time for action may fast be approaching"

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