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Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Iraq Notebook

U.S. orders 20,000 more troops to Persian Gulf

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has activated more than 20,000 more Army troops to be sent to the Persian Gulf as the U.S. military buildup in the region continues, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Deployment orders signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the weekend will send the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and several smaller units to the area around Iraq, where they will join about 150,000 other U.S. forces.

The other units include an artillery brigade, a combat-support hospital, a chemical-weapons defense company, a military-police unit, "civil affairs" specialists in humanitarian missions and rear-area support units, officials said.

Chirac's 'keep quiet' diatribe rankles in Eastern Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium — A day after European Union leaders forged a compromise position on Iraq aimed at restoring European unity, political leaders in many of the 13 countries awaiting admission to the EU angrily denounced a statement by French President Jacques Chirac that they had "missed a great opportunity to keep quiet" during the contentious Iraq debate. The countries have generally sided against France in favor of the United States' tough line against Iraq.

The 13 countries, most of them former Communist-ruled states of Eastern Europe who have applied for membership in the European alliance, did jointly endorse the statement of the 15 current EU members, saying that U.N. weapons inspectors should get more time and resources to disarm Iraq peacefully, but that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein needed to cooperate "immediately and fully" in order to avert a war.

The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, said in a retort to Chirac, "We are not joining the EU so we can sit and shut up."

The pro-American position of many of the East Europeans led Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to make a remark recently that the continent was now divided between an "old Europe" of France and anti-war Germany and a "new Europe" whose center of gravity had shifted east with the inclusion of several of the Eastern nations in NATO.

In December, 10 were invited to join in 2004, and still must sign the formal membership treaties.

Canada: No Iraq attack without U.N. blessing

OTTAWA — Canada yesterday said it had no intention of contributing to a possible U.S.-led attack that had not been blessed by the United Nations Security Council.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has until now refused to rule out contributing forces to a possible unilateral U.S. attack, but yesterday he told Parliament this was not an option.

"We have not been asked and we do not intend to participate in a group of the willing," he said in reply to a question asking whether Canada would join what President Bush has called "a coalition of willing countries."

Scientists say they want interviews to be taped

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.N. weapons inspectors said yesterday many Iraqi scientists had agreed to be interviewed about weapons programs only if the meetings were recorded, and called for a change of attitude.

"I express hope that this will change," the inspectors' spokesman Hero Ueki told reporters at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

He said the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission rejected taping the meetings "because we need to ensure that these private interviews are credible and the confidentiality of the information is maintained."

Last week Iraq agreed under U.N. pressure to let scientists be interviewed in private.

Ueki said experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, privately questioned two scientists yesterday who were associated with Iraq's former gas centrifuge enrichment program, bringing the number of Iraqi individuals questioned privately by the IAEA to seven.

Ueki said earlier UNMOVIC had so far interviewed only three scientists privately.

Ueki confirmed a U-2 surveillance plane flew its first U.N. mission over Iraq Monday, as announced by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Inspectors gave Iraq 48-hour advance notification in line with agreed arrangements to ensure the safety of the aircraft.

Ueki said ballistics experts were tagging al-Samoud missiles whose range exceeded U.N. limits. Chief inspector Hans Blix is expected to order the destruction of the missiles and their engines.

Ueki said the inspectors visited 12 military and industrial sites in and around Baghdad yesterday, heading for military compounds, chemical and other factories as well as Al Muthanna military complex, where they have been destroying artillery shells and mustard gas found in the 1990s.

He said bad weather conditions forced the team to postpone the weapons-destruction process at Al Muthanna.

South Africa to send experts in disarmament to aid Iraq

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa named a team of seven scientists yesterday to go to Iraq to share expertise on disarmament, in a move Pretoria believes could help avert a U.S.-led war against Baghdad.

Iraq had accepted the offer of the team, officials said.

They said the scientists, who led South Africa's own voluntary program to shed all weapons of mass destruction after the end of apartheid in 1994, would fly to Baghdad on Friday.

South Africa has taken a leading role among developing countries in opposing a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq, saying it could lead to economic disaster for Africa.

The South African team includes Col. Ben Steyn, who took charge of the country's chemical- and biological-warfare programs in the mid-1990s.

Also...

Aircraft taking part in U.S.-British patrols attacked an Iraqi air-defense radar and a rocket system in southern Iraq yesterday, the U.S. military said. ... Iraq denied yesterday a British newspaper report that President Saddam Hussein had placed his defense minister under house arrest. The Guardian newspaper said yesterday that Saddam had placed Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmed, a close relative, under house arrest, in an apparent bid to prevent a coup. ... Opposition leaders representing Iraq's majority Shiite population will meet in Iran on Monday to discuss their role in the country if President Saddam Hussein is toppled, officials in Tehran said yesterday. The meeting, to be hosted by the Tehran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, will follow a broader-based gathering of Iraqi opposition groups taking place in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq this week. ... The Israeli High Court yesterday dismissed a petition demanding that Israel be ordered to supply gas masks to all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the event of a U.S. war on Iraq. The Israeli army, in charge of gas-mask distribution, has said it would issue 60,000 masks to Palestinians who live in West Bank areas designated by interim peace accords as under total Israeli control. ... The United Nations is seeking to immunize more than 4 million Iraqi children for measles and polio before a possible U.S.-led war begins, a spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund said. Seven hundred representatives of U.N. agencies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will join more than 13,000 Iraqis in a door-to-door drive during a five-day period beginning Sunday, UNICEF spokesman Alfred Ironside said.

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