South News Iraq updates Feb 6 - 12
  • Libya warns Australian firms over attack
  • SAS already in the Gulf says paper
  • Eclipse irrelevant to attack timing
  • Russian MPs fly in to defend Iraq
  • Iraq calls for peoples diplomacy
  • Disapproval grows on SAS to Gulf
  • China issues warning on Gulf strikes
  • Lebanon condemns UN double standard on Iraq
  • Aussie parliamentarians oppose US strike
  • Butler blamed as Aussies ponder US request
  • Israelis fire on pro-Saddam demonstration
  • Zinni and Cohen war overtures unwelcome in Saudi
  • US delays Russian MP Iraq trip

    Libya warns Australian firms over attack

    London: Libya has warned Australia and Canada with economic reprisals if they take part in a military strike against Iraq.

    A foreign ministry spokesman is quoted as saying that his country would cancel trade and oil accords with Australian and Canadian companies if the two took part in an attack against Iraq, the official Libyan news agency JANA said on Wednesday.

    It quoted an ``authorised source'' at the Libyan foreign ministry as saying that Libya ``would take measures to cancel contracts and deals signed with Canadian and Australian companies in case their countries took part with the American forces in aggression against the Arab nation and the brotherly Iraqi people.''

    ``The source confirmed that cancellation would include all deals and contracts, whether in trade or in oil, with companies of both countries,'' JANA said in an English-language statement faxed to Reuters in London. It gave no other details.

    The United States has threatened to attack Iraq unless it provides unrestricted access to U.N. inspectors searching for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Tuesday Australian special forces and intelligence officers would take part in any U.S.-led strike against Iraq.

    Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced on Tuesday that Canada was sending a frigate, two Hercules transport aircraft and 300 to 400 troops to the Gulf to join the military coalition against Iraq.

    SAS already in the Gulf says paper
    South News Feb 12

    Melbourne: Members of the elite Australian SAS are already secretly in the Gulf an Australian paper said Thursday admits allegations of comprising the forces security.

    "A small team was positioned in Kuwait even as Mr Howard announced on Tuesday", Ian McPhedran, defence reporter,of the Melbourne Herald Sun said,"The team was placed as "spotters" planning operations with their British SAS counterparts."

    The Herald Sun also revealed Australian SAS personnel served inside Iraq with British units during the 1991 Gulf War.Their role has never been publicly acknowledged.

    Members of the elite service have reportedly criticised the Prime Minister's detailing of their possible operations in the Gulf, saying the element of surprise is their biggest asset. A former Special Air Service (SAS) captain said John Howard has compromised the security of troops he may send to the Gulf.

    Mick Mallone, an ex-member of the regiment, "We're dismayed that the government would announce this before deploying the troops," he said."It is too late now, but the regiment is very angry and headquarters 'Australian Theatre' in Canberra has some explaining."

    "This has always been our ace in the hole, this basically non-existence thing he said, "Now the government's quite happy to tell the world" .

    The 110 SAS troops have been offered as "search and rescue support", but the Defence Minister Mr McLachlan said there was a real possibility they could be used in other actions.

    A spokesman for the Australian Defence Force confirmed the SAS Officers can specialise in sabotage, surveillance and intelligence. "They do special reconnaissance duties, they are capable of operating behind enemy lines on certain activities such as sabotage," the spokesman said.

    According to British sources the British SAS is angry because Tony Blair maintained the tradition of not discussing the SAS or its destination to Kuwait to undertake clandestine operations. Australia's SAS has worked with the British in  Bosnia, South Africa and Northern Ireland since being formed in 1957.

    In Canberra opposition leader, Kim Beazley,  backed the Prime Minister, denying Mr Howard has blown the cover of Special Air Force (SAS) troops poised for action against Iraq. Mr Beazley said that  when the Government is sending people into a conflict, it needs to give some detail to the Australian people.

    However increasingly members of his own party are opposed to any committment.Yesterday The New South Wales Parliamentary Labor Party passed a motion opposing Australian involvement in any allied intervention in Iraq. During the first state Labor Caucus meeting for 1998 there was a lengthy debate on a motion opposing any Australian military involvement in Iraq.

    The motion bound caucus to call upon the Australian Government to reject the US demand for a military response in Iraq. It went on to further insist that the Government join France, Italy, Japan and the Arab states in demanding a United Nations response, not a unilateral bombing raid.

    The 110 members of the SAS unit will join the British 22nd SAS Regiment in Kuwait.The force assembling in the Gulf is nominally led by a US Marines.

    Eclipse irrelevant to attack timing
    South News Feb 12

    Washington : US strategists are looking to attack on the next new moon after the Nagano Olympic games end on Feb 22 even through astrologists says it is bad time as it is a solar eclipse

    The U.S. Naval Observatory, which keeps track of the lunar calendar, says the next new moon will be Feb. 26, creating a potential window of opportunity for a possible U.S. strike on Iraq

    ``There are three or four nights of darkness on either side of the new moon,'' Geoff Chester, a spokesman for the observatory, said Wednesday. ``It certainly helps to have no moon. When it's full, it illuminates the sky.''

    Military planners pay as much attention to the waxing and waning of the moon as mythical werewolves. A dark sky with little or no visible crescent is the best time to launch an aerial attack they say.  The 1991 Persian Gulf War was launched Jan 17, two days after the new moon arrived Jan 15, continuing a long military tradition of surprising the enemy in the dead of night.

    The Pentagon dismissed the astrologers saying as the Jan 15 new moon also coincided with a solar eclipse.A full moon could make attacking planes easier targets for Iraq's anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-ground missiles, according to military planners.

    ``If you strike, you often want to do it under cover of darkness,'' said an Air Force official who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``The bottom line is, we are going to plan our mission in a way that reduces our exposure to threats. The moon and the weather are just some of the considerations.''

    Today's high-tech aircraft have many more defense capabilities to protect themselves during the day, including radar-jamming equipment so they can't be tracked. Attack aircraft operated during daylight hours in the Gulf War, but most airstrikes came after sundown. Fighter-bomber jets such as F-117s, which have few defense means, fly at night.

    The stealth B-2 bomber is designed to evade radar, although tests indicate bad weather conditions, particularly rain, can make it less effectictive.

    Russian  MPs fly in to defend Iraq
    South News Feb 11

    Baghdad: Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in Baghdad on Wednesday he and his fellow-parliamentarians aboard the Ilyushin 86 were ready to ``defend President Saddam Hussein, the palaces and the Iraqi people.''

    The Russian aircraft, carrying 12 tonnes of medical supplies, arrived from the Armenian capital Yerevan where it had been stranded since Sunday awaiting clearance from the U.N. sanctions committee. Deputy National Assembly Speaker Aziz Khadouri were at the airport to greet Liberal Democratic Party leader and other members of the Russian parliament.

    ``The threat that Iraq is facing could lead to a world war,'' Zhirinovsky told reporters through an interpreter after flying into Baghdad on a plane carrying medical aid for Iraq. He said Russia would not take part in any such conflict, but wanted to prevent it from breaking out.

    Zhirinovsky said U.S. President Bill Clinton would be committing a ``very big mistake, a very big crime'' if he ordered a military strike on Iraq to force it to give U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access to presidential palaces. ``I would say to Mr Clinton and the people of the United States, we are against the war here in the Middle East, especially against Iraq,'' he said.

    The Russian government and the opposition-dominated Duma (lower house) have both called for a peaceful solution and condemned Washington's readiness to use military strikes against Baghdad. to force it to give full access to U.N. inspectors.

    Russian President Boris Yeltsin's special envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk, is in Baghdad trying to defuse the crisis. Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said on Wednesday his government supported a Russian proposal that would allow U.N. inspections of all eight so-called presidential sites for a period of one or two months.

    Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has twice invited Russian legislators to visit the country to inspect so-called presidential sites the United Nations suspects may hold chemical and biological weapons to "prove that Iraq has nothing to hide."

    The UN sanctions committee said the flight was a parliamentary delegation rather than a humanitarian mission because of the number of legislators on board. Under U.N. sanctions against Iraq, only humanitarian aid can be flown into the country. There were originally 48 legislators and about 100 journalists aboard

    Iraq calls for peoples diplomacy
    South News Feb 10

    Baghdad: Iraq has issued a call for peoples diplomacy in absence of UN mediation in its dispute with the US during the Olympic truce two-week reprieve.

    Iraq issued an open invitation to foreign politicians on Tuesday to visit Baghdad and hear its side of the story in a row with the United Nations over weapons inspections. The Iraqi News Agency (INA) said the invitation was extended by the foreign affairs bureau of Iraq's ruling Arab Socialist Baath Party to political parties and personalities around the world.

    The global invitation was aimed at briefing ``the parties and personalities on Iraq's position towards the current crisis which was manufactured by the United States,'' the agency quoted a Baath Party source as saying. It said the visitors would also see the effect of seven years of sanctions on Iraq, and discuss the ``dangers of American threats of a new military aggression against Iraq and the negative repercussions and the shock to regional security.''

    An official Baghdad newspaper has accused UN chief Kofi Annan of allowing the crisis to slide toward war, the secretary general himself said diplomatic efforts should aim to find a face-saving formula for Iraq to back down.

    The official Baghdad daily Babel accused Annan of following US orders and not doing enough to find a diplomatic solution. "We are sorry to say that the UN secretary general ... is not showing impartiality or responsibility toward maintaining world peace and security," said the paper. "Annan prefers to bow to US pressure so as to keep his post," it said. His decision not to visit Iraq only confirms the fact that he is carrying out the orders of the United States.

    Annan has not ruled out a personal mission to Baghdad, but said he first needed a "workable solution that will move us forward" and avoid the threatened US-led air war on Iraq.

    INA said delegates attending an Islamic conference were given a two-hour tour of the quarters and gardens of Baghdad's Republican Palace on Tuesday to prove it contained no prohibited arms. It quoted a court official as expressing Iraq's ``firm and principled position of defending its sovereignty and honour and security, and refuting American claims and aggression (by showing) there are no banned weapons in the peoples' palaces.''

    Last month Iraq took foreign diplomats on a tour of four palaces. But it has told the U.N. inspectors it will not allow them to enter the presidential sites at least until disarmament talks are completed in April. Iraq has scoffed at Western reports it could be hiding materials related to weapons of mass destruction inside buildings where President Saddam Hussein works and sleeps.

    The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Saadoun Hammadi, sent a separate invitation to eight British parliamentarians he said had rejected the use of force to settle the inspections dispute. Envoys from France, Russia, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League have already travelled to Baghdad in a bid to resolve the crisis.

    The US embassy in Tokyo said that Washington respects the UN resolution urging all countries to abstain from hostilities during the Winter Olympics which end February 22. "The United States respects this call for peace," it said in a statement.

    Disapproval grows on SAS to Gulf
    South News Feb 10

    Perth: The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Peter Carnley, has voiced his disapproval at Australia 's decision  to send elite commando teams as well as air force planes towards any United States military strike against Iraq.

    Dr Carnley says the constant refusal by Iraq to cooperate with United Nations inspectors  is not reason enough to start a second Gulf war. "Whether this is a situation where we are really defending ourselves, I think, has to be demonstrated."

    The Queensland Greens have also condemned the move, saying Australia is endorsing an attempt by the US to enhance its commercial interest in the region and divert attention from the President's personal crisis. Islamic groups in Australia earlier urged Howard not to join any military operation against Iraq. During the Gulf War Australian Moslems became the targets of abuse.

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Tuesday Australian special forces and intelligence officers would take part in any U.S.-led strike. Federal Cabinet decided to make the contribution following a personal request at the weekend to the Prime Minister, John Howard, from President, Bill Clinton.

    Mr Howard says while he hopes the dispute with Iraq will be settled through diplomatic means, Australia stands ready to play its part in sending "  a detachment of the Special Air Service for search and rescue operations"  and " two Boeing 7-0-7s for refuelling purposes and also in addition some individual specialists in areas of intelligence and medical skills".

    A further 100-odd will be medical staff, drawn from across the services, and intelligence officers, probably drawn from the Defence Intelligence Organisation. Joint Australia-U.S. spy bases in the remote Australian outback played a key role in 1991 Gulf War and are expected to again be utilised in any operation against Baghdad.

    China issues warning on Gulf strikes
    South News Feb 10

    Beijing : United Nations Security Council member China says any military action against Iraq could escalate into a more serious conflict.

    The warning co-incides with talks involving China's assistant foreign minister, Ji Peiding, and ambassadors from states such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. China says it still stands by the possibility of a peaceful solution to the crisis and that diplomatic means should be used. today met representatives from a number of Gulf states.

    A Foreign Ministry spokeperson says  is against the use of force as it could aggravate regional tensions and trigger more serious conflicts.

    Lebanon condemns UN double standard on Iraq
    South News Feb 10

    Kuala Lumpur : Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri said on Tuesday that his country opposed military action against Iraq

    The Lebanese leader, speaking on the second day of a two-day official visit to Malaysia, accused the international community of applying double standards and said his country also wanted Israel to comply with U.N. resolutions.

    ``We see the people of Iraq suffering and we see that maybe war will come,'' Hariri said. ``We are totally against the war and also we are totally with the implementation of the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.''

    The Lebanese leader said Lebanon wanted the international community to hold Israel to the same standards as Iraq, and make the Jewish state comply with U.N. resolutions. ``The Lebanese people cannot understand the double standards with which some countries are measuring the situation,'' he said.

    ``We see Israel not implementing the resolution of the United Nations and they are not accepting anything they say, all they signed and all they agreed upon,'' Hariri said, adding that other countries were not criticising or punishing Israel.

    Aussie parliamentarians oppose US strike
    South News Feb 9

    Melbourne: Seven labor members of the Victorian upper house of parliament have called on Prime Minister Howard in the "strongest terms" to refuse to sanction a US strike on Iraq.

    In a letter saying, "the resulting misery and death that will be inflicted on a people who have already suffered from 7 years of economic sanctions can not be justified," Jean Maclean, Coerse Seitz, Eddie Micalief, Don Nardella, Doug Walpole and Neil Cole said diplomatic efforts should be stepped up. They add that, " The only effect of an attack on Iraq will be more civilian deaths".

    Yet Australian PM, John Howard, is inflaming the US war drive on Iraq by stepping up diplomatic incidents as it considers a United States request to support military action.

    Iraqi Charge D'affaires Khalid Mohammed at the Iraqi embassy in Canberra has been summoned to the Foreign Affairs department to explain Iraq bio-chemical capacity. The Iraqi diplomat was lectured on allowing weapons inspectors to visit sites where chemical and biological weapons are believed to be housed.

    Iraq's Charge d'Affairs Khalid Mohammed said no country has been authorised by the United Nations to use force against Iraq. Mr Khalid said his country is willing to end the problem in a peaceful manner and he has condemned any use of military action against Iraq.

    Mr. Howard said, "if Iraq is allowed to keep a chemical and biological weapons capabilitythat poses a threat to all countries." He expects Federal Cabinet to give in-principle support tomorrow for Australian forces to take part in a United States-led military assault on Iraq. The Prime Minister has spoken to his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts today, ahead of tomorrow's Cabinet decision on whether Australia will support any United States military strike on Iraq.

    A submission outlining Australia's diplomatic and military options was being prepared yesterday by the departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Prime Minister and Cabinet and Defence. The Defence Force chief, General John Baker, has given logistics advice.

    Australian Defence Minister McLachlan said Iraq weapons capacity threatened Australia agreeing to a scenario that Iraq may pollute Canberra's water supply with Anthrax.

    The zionist lobby is accelerating its media campaign for a strike on Iraq with visiting US Congressman Tom Lantos, calling to "finish off Saddam" and hopes "our Australian friends will be with us again," in military action.

    However his comments were not shared by the Federation of Islamic Organisations.Speaking on SBS television Bilal Cleland said such an attack was totally unjustifedand would have "deep ramifications".

    His comments were echoed by an international ecumenical peace group, which has called on the Prime Minister to refuse the United States request for military assistance. Pax Christi is calling for religious leaders to join its US members in putting pressure on the Government not to participate in any conflict. The organisation's secretary, Denis Doherty said the US has not been practicing what it preaches on the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

    Earlier today the Australian Arabic Council spokesman said Mr. Howard must think twice about supporting the US. Speaking on ABC radio AAC Chairman, Roland Jabbour, said attacks and sanctions have already inflicted mass destruction on the Iraqi nation. "How does Australia justify attacking a country that has been deprived of the most essentials that resulted in the deaths of half a million children," Mr. Jabbour said.

    "How could Australia guarantee there will be no more casualties as a result of these latest agendas, if you like, and what is in it for Australia," he said.

    At a federal level the Australian Democrats prefer diplomacy to military action but the Australian Greens are more blunt against a US strike. Senator, Dee Margetts, said Australia should not support a military strike against Iraq at all.

    She said military action would be a blatant attempt to protect United States and British commercial interests. Senator Margetts said Australia should send a message that it does not accept the deliberately provocative actions taken by the US and UK.

    She said Australia should withdraw Richard Butler from his position as head of the United Nations commission which co-ordinates the weapons inspectors.

    Butler blamed as Aussies ponder US request
    South News Feb 8

    Canberra: As Australia ponders an US request for support of massive military assault on Iraq, Richard Butler, the former Australian diplomat serving as the UN's frontman on Iraq has been accused as inflaming "American public opinion against Iraq which might make the White House more willing to send in warplanes" in a crisis over weapons inspections.

    Criticism from UN officials of Russia, France and China come as no surprise to some of Butler's old critics in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade claimed Cameron Stewart in a series of interviews published in the Weekend Australian on Saturday.

    "When Butler issues an UNSCOM report or appears on television to discuss Iraqi intransigence, the US frequently exploits his comments as a further justification for a possible military strike", the Weekend Australian said. The article further stated that "Some of his former Australian colleagues feared that Butler - while obviously competent - was far too aggressive and arrogant for such a sensitive international post".

    His frequent appearance on television talk shows has led Annan to dub Butler's style as one of "television diplomacy" and newspapers in Iraq have called him a "mad dog" and have urged Australia to withdraw him from the job.

    "Richard has always liked being in the spotlight," said one of his former Australian colleagues. "The problem is that he is blurring the boundary between being a UN official and being policy-making diplomat," the paper said.

    US President Bill Clinton has asked Australia to join a US-led strike force for an all-out military assault on Iraq. Mr Clinton telephoned the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, at 3pm yesterday to seek Australian military aid if action is necessary against Iraq in the Gulf.

    Mr Howard told President Clinton he would need to consult Federal Cabinet before he could give an answer but it is believed Australia is certain to agree to the US request. Federal Cabinet will consider the issue when it meets on Tuesday.

    The two leaders spoke for about 20 minutes on the simmering Gulf crisis with predictions that a full-scale attack is only a week away. Opposition leader Kim Beazley said it is important to have bi partisan support and the head of the Australian Olympic commitee is urging any committment until after the Nagano games.

    President Clinton made the call to Mr Howard after a dinner held at Camp David with British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair. Defence chiefs have been preparing "military options" for Mr Howard and Defence Minister Mr Ian McLachlan after a senior official from the US State Department met Australia's ambassador in Washington, Mr Andrew Peacock, last week.

    Australian defence sources said last night that Australia could be expected to "respond positively" with personnel and equipment.The sources said Mr McLachlan had had talks with Australia's highest-ranking defence officials and that he was keeping Mr Howard informed.

    "The response will be imminent, but I'd have to stress that, at the moment, Australia will want to be pursuing all diplomatic options before any commitment (to send the forces) is made," a source said.

    Australia's preparation for military involvement in the Gulf has also coincided with tougher rhetoric from Mr Clinton after talks with Mr Blair. Mr Blair became the first allied Western leader to unequivocally back the proposed use of military force - said the US was now prepared to bomb Iraq into a state of relative harmlessness.

    Australian defence sources said Australia could send ships, aircraft or troops to the Gulf, to help with communications, medical support and refuelling. Australia has already stepped up its verbal attacks on Iraq and President Saddam Hussein since the approach was made to Mr Peacock, and after Mr Clinton announced that the US would send another 2200 Marines to the Gulf.

    But Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said he hopes military action against Iraq will not be necessary saying he hoped the UN weapons inspection teams will be able to carry out their work Mr Downer has made the comment in Islamabad, on the second day of his four day tour of Pakistan.

    Meanwhile Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, concluding a two-day visit to Bangladesh, said Saturday that he would oppose any U.S. military action against Iraq. Farrakhan is to visit Australia this week.

    Disarmament should start from "Israel, America and Russia, which are sitting on deadly arms,'' said the Muslim leader, who is on a 53-nation tour that has taken him to Iraq, the Palestinian self-rule areas, Jordan, Egypt and Libya.

    However in Bethlehem Israeli troops have wounded 14 Arabs, including three PLO policemen, with rubber bullets, during a march by Palestinians in support of Iraq.

    Many Palestinians have accused Washington of adopting double standards by demanding Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions on arms inspections, but refraining from pressing Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab land under another resolution.

    Israelis fire on pro-Saddam demonstration
    South News Feb 8

    Bethlehem: Palestinians rallying in support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein clashed with Israeli security forces Saturday. About15 people were injured.

    The skirmishes began when the crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators moved toward an Israeli checkpoint. The injured included at least three journalists and three Palestinian policemen. At one point, a senior Palestinian police officer threatened to fire on the Israeli troops if any more of his men, who were trying to control the crowd, were hit.

    "These are our people. We will deal with them, not you," one Palestinian officer was heard to shout at an Israeli counterpart during Saturday's melee.

    The demonstrators, carrying large placards of Hussein and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, denounced U.S. President Bill Clinton for threatening Iraq with a military strike for failing to comply with United Nations weapons inspections.

    "Saddam is a symbol of the honor and pride of the Arabs, and we are with him," said 15-year-old demonstrator Ali Taqatqa.

    They made much of the ongoing political scandal in Washington. "Clinton is a coward. Go look for women," hundreds of demonstrators jeered in unison as marchers held up large placards of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. They held aloft Iraqi and Palestinian flags, burned U.S. flags and denounced Britain for backing the Americans.

    ``President Clinton is attacking Iraq to cover up his own sexual problems in America,'' a masked demonstrator shouted. ``We would be happy if Iraq fired missiles at Israel,'' he added in a reference to Israeli fears of a recurrence of the Iraqi Scud missile strikes in the 1991 Gulf War.

    Many Palestinians accuse the United States of adopting a double standard by insisting that Iraq comply with U.N. dictates while, in their view, not pressing Israel hard enough to comply with U.N. resolutions involving the return of Arab lands.

    The journalists wounded on Saturday were cameramen from Reuters and AP television and a Reuters stills photographer. 

    Zinni and Cohen war overtures unwelcome in Saudi
    South News Feb 8

    Dubai: Saudi Arabian papers declared its opposition to a military strike against Iraq setting Defence Secretary William Cohen and the commander of US Gulf forces Marine Corps General Zinni a challenge when they meets King Fahd on Sunday.

    ``We'll not agree and we are against striking Iraq as a people and as a nation,'' the English-language daily Arab News on Sunday quoted the Defence Minister Prince Sultan,as saying. The Arabic-language daily Okaz also reported his remarks, made to reporters on his return to the kingdom on Saturday after convalescence in Morocco following surgery in Switzerland last year.

    Prince Sultan, who is defence and aviation minister, second deputy prime minister and second in line for the throne after Crown Prince Abdullah, urged Iraq to stick to U.N. resolutions. ``At the same time, we say to (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein to abide by the U.N. resolutions in order to protect his people and put an end to their seven-year-long sufferings,'' he was quoted by the Arab News as saying.

    Saudi Arabia was the springboard for the 1991 Gulf War led by U.S. forces to expel Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait when the US Gulf field commander Swartzkopf was technically under the command of the Saudi commander in chief.

    U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia's commercial capital Jeddah on Sunday with the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni. They are due from Germany at the start of a tour of Washington's six Gulf Arab allies -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

    Cohen on Saturday ordered six stealth fighter-bombers, six B-52 bombers, six F-16 fighters, one B-1B bomber and 23 support aircraft to join the huge American force of warships and planes gathered in the Gulf and on Britain's Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia.

    The Saudi-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Moslem body, and its chairman, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, called over the weekend for intensified efforts to avoid a military confrontation between the United States and Iraq.

    US delays Russian MP Iraq trip
    South News Feb 8

    Moscow: United States on Saturday delayed Russian MPs visit of disputed Iraqi "presidential sites". Viktor Cheremukhin, press secretary of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, told Interfax that Washington and London objected to the flight on grounds it would violate UN sanctions against Iraq.

    As a result of the objections, Cheremukhin said the flight had been "delayed for an unspecified amount of time." Russia's lower house of parliament on Friday accepted an Iraqi invitation to send a delegation to Baghdad, which is in a stand-off with the United Nations over arms inspectors.

    Gennady Seleznyov, chairman of the State Duma lower house, told reporters the delegation, including two members of each major parliamentary faction. ``I think it was a good idea for the deputies to visit Iraq to see with their own eyes what the situation is like there and maybe their example will encourage the U.S. Congress to take a similar step,'' Seleznyov said.

    The Iraqi embassy in Moscow issued visas to 57 Duma deputies and 73 journalists to make the trip, ITAR-TASS said. An embassy spokesman said that Baghdad would limit neither the amount of time the Russian delegation would spend in Iraq nor its access to disputed "presidentital sites".

    The Duma urged President Boris Yeltsin to veto any military action against Iraq in the U.N. Security Council and to retreat from international sanctions against Iraq if the United States launches a military strike.