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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 21:30 GMT
Egypt to push Iraq over weapons
Dick Cheney (left) and Hosni Mubarak
Mr Mubarak is an influential US ally
Egypt is ready to pressure the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, to accept the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to his country, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said.

Mr Mubarak's comments came at a joint news conference after talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh with US vice-president Dick Cheney.

The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide

Dick Cheney
Earlier, Mr Cheney told US troops based in Egypt to prepare for the next stage of the war on terror - preventing regimes that sponsor terrorism from threatening the United States or its allies with weapons of mass destruction.

There has been persistent speculation that the United States is planning to attack Iraq and Mr Cheney is touring the Middle East seeking Arab support for any strike against the regime in Baghdad.

Divided opinion

Mr Cheney began his 10-nation tour in Jordan, where King Abdullah signalled his opposition to any such move.

Dick Cheney addresses US troops
Earlier Mr Cheney rallied US troops based in Egypt

Correspondents say King Abdullah warned that military action against Iraq could plunge the volatile region into turmoil.

"We'll try hard with Saddam Hussein to accept the UN inspectors to go there. We are going to meet to some of his special envoys and tell them that this is a must," Mr Mubarak said after his meeting with Mr Cheney.

Note of caution

When asked whether Saddam Hussein should be removed from power if he refuses to admit inspectors Mr Mubarak said:

"If there is nothing happening, we'll find out what could be done in that direction".

Cheney's tour
Saudi Arabia

But Mr Mubarak also urged caution on Iraq, saying "every possible effort" should be made to resolved the impasse over weapons inspections "without inflicting more suffering on the Iraqi people".

He also emphasised that it is vital to maintain Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

US President George W Bush announced the "second phase" of his war against terrorism on Monday - the six-month anniversary of the 11 September attacks - and Mr Cheney carried that message to US troops stationed in Egypt.

Nuclear threat

"Our next objective is to prevent terrorists and regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction," Mr Cheney told the troops gathered at Sharm el-Sheikh.

"The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide."

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein receives a Kurdish honour
Saddam Hussein: the next target?

A senior US official told a BBC correspondent travelling with Mr Cheney that a nuclear strike - first mooted when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 - remained an option should Iraq attack Americans with chemical or biological weapons.

It was not clear what the strategy might be if Saddam acted against a US ally such as Israel.

Our correspondent said it was hard to imagine the US using nuclear weapons that would kill tens of thousands of people but, by not ruling out the possibility, the Bush administration might be hoping to deter Saddam from rash action.

Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak
"It is of vital importance to maintain the sovereignty of Iraq"
US Vice President, Dick Cheney
"We appreciate Egypt's leadership on behalf of peace in the Middle East"
See also:

12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney warned over Iraq attack
12 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Cheney and Blair give Iraq warning
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
07 Mar 02 | Middle East
Iraq keeps talking on arms inspectors
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
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