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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 13:47 GMT
US accelerates Gulf build-up
Iraqi troops and UN inspectors
The UN Security Council is split over the inspections
The United States is to send nearly 37,000 more personnel to the Gulf in preparation for possible military action against Iraq.

If Iraq does not come into full compliance, we must not shrink from the responsibilities that we set before ourselves

Colin Powell
US Secretary of State
The mobilisation of a further US army division comes shortly after the United Kingdom - Washington's closest ally on the issue of Iraq - announced a major deployment to the region of its own troops.

Earlier, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told the United Nations Security Council that it should not be scared into "impotence" when it came to dealing with Iraq.

But clear divisions have been surfacing within the Security Council over the prospect of war with Iraq, ahead of a key report on the situation in the country from chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix - to be delivered on 27 January.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

The report has been seen as a possible trigger for military action against Iraq, which Washington insists possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Significant force

The troops involved in the latest US deployment orders come in addition to the 150,000 personnel who are being mobilised for duty in the Gulf.

Deployment details
125,000 US troops including:
12,000 4th Infantry division troops
2,000 Marines trained for chemical and biological warfare
26,000 UK troops including:
Royal Marines, tanks and an air assault brigade

The BBC's Nick Childs at the Pentagon says the US decision is further evidence that the Americans are building up a significant force capable of a ground attack.

The deployment of 26,000 more British troops for possible military action against Iraq is a far higher figure than had originally been anticipated.

The UK Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, also announced that 150 armoured personnel carriers and 120 tanks were being sent to Kuwait before mid-February.

Britain has already sent a naval task force with 8,000 sailors and commandos to the Gulf region.

Mr Hoon stressed that there was no commitment to military action, but the deployment would fit the task if action against Iraq was needed.

Council divisions

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking at the UN in New York, insisted however that the UN inspectors currently deployed in Iraq must be allowed to complete their work.

Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix
ElBaradei and Blix: Guarded optimism

"We believe that, today, nothing justifies military action," he told reporters.

"It is possible for us to make progress on the path of Iraq disarmament through co-operation and inspections," he said.

"We must continue in this direction, all the more since military action would not bring any guarantee regarding Iraq's unity, security, stability."

China, another permanent member, said the inspectors should be given more time.

Beijing insisted that the report they are to present on 27 January on the first two months of work should be seen as "a new beginning," not the end of the process.

Russia, also a permanent member, supports the same position.

27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN

But the US has made clear that its patience with Iraq is wearing thin.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told an Army Reserve conference: "We're nearing the end of the long road, and with every other option exhausted."

As for inspectors to be given months more to hunt for weapons, Mr Rumsfeld said: "It will not take months to determine whether or not they are co-operating."

One of the leaders of the UN inspection teams for Iraq, Mohamad ElBaradei, says the teams are only mid way through their work.

Speaking in Athens after talks in Baghdad with Iraqi officials, Mr ElBaradei announced that both he and Mr Blix, would make this clear to the UN Security Council next week.

Agreements reached

The US and Britain have also made clear that they are unimpressed by an offer from Iraq to improve co-operation with the inspectors.

Iraq has agreed to a series of concessions with weapons teams, including a commitment to provide a list of people who could be interviewed by the inspectors without any Iraqi officials being present.

Interviews with scientists - who might be taken out of Iraq, possibly to Cyprus - have been demanded by the US Government, but Baghdad had previously objected.

Iraqi officials also agreed to set up a team to search for munitions that had been missed out of its declaration on weapons programmes made last December.

Last week, 11 empty chemical warheads were found by inspectors which Iraq said had been mistakenly left out of its 12,000-page declaration.

Mr Blix said he was "fairly confident" Iraq would honour the agreements.

However he said that Iraqi conditions for allowing US spy planes to fly over its territory were described as "not acceptable" by Mr Blix.

He also added that Iraq and the UN had not yet discussed "substantive issues" related to anthrax, Scud missiles and the lethal VX nerve gas.

  The BBC's Ian Pannell
"The US and the UK reserve the right to act alone"
  The BBC's Kim Ghattas reports from Baghdad
"Iraqis feel they have been co-operating very well with the inspectors"

Key stories





See also:

20 Jan 03 | Europe
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
20 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Jan 03 | Middle East
20 Jan 03 | Middle East
21 Jan 03 | Business
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