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U.S. Increasing Troops in Gulf; War Still Not Inevitable

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2003 – The U.S. military is building up forces in the Persian Gulf, but that's not a sign war with Iraq is inevitable, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers refused to discuss specific numbers of troops in or headed to the region. Longstanding military policy prohibits such releases.

Both men told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that the forces are being moved to the Gulf to give the president as many options as possible in dealing with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"We want to ensure that we are prepared to provide the president as much flexibility as possible," Myers said.

Still, Rumsfeld added, none of this means war can't be averted. He noted that President Bush "is determined to see what takes place" regarding Iraq. Recent international attention on the country has already led to some positive signs, he added.

"Because of the emphasis that (President Bush, Congress and the United Nations) have put on this problem, we are seeing that Iraq is allowing inspectors in and behaving in a manner that's somewhat different from that which it's been behaving in over the preceding years," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said the United States has received offers of support from many other nations. "Countries across the globe have been coming forward and discussing with us ways that they can be helpful," he said.

These offers have included military assistance both during and after a possible conflict, and civilian aid in rebuilding Iraq.

Rumsfeld once again suggested Saddam Hussein could avoid military action by simply leaving Iraq. "The first choice would be that Saddam Hussein pick up and leave the country tonight," he said. "That would be nice for everybody."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, Jan. 7, 2003
DoD News Transcript: Backgrounder with Senior Defense Officials on Special Operations, Jan. 7, 2003

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