U.S. shares Iraqi intelligence with U.N.
Information will be handed over slowly to prevent leaks
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will begin sharing intelligence with the United Nations about possible Iraqi weapons sites this weekend, according to officials in Washington.
The Saturday announcement comes a day after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix appealed for intelligence that would help inspectors find anything Iraq may be hiding.
Sources say the United States will hand over intelligence slowly, on a piecemeal basis in an attempt to keep the information from the Iraqis.
Also this weekend, U.S. President George W. Bush delayed his January trip to Africa in part because of the Iraqi situation, and sources say he is ready to sign off on deploying 50,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf early next month.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer released a statement that said the president "looks forward to visiting Africa in 2003 to continue building America's partnership with the continent and to sharing firsthand with African leaders his commitment to working on issues ranging from the war on terrorism to economic development." (Full story)
U.S. prepares troop deployments
Bush has threatened military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by the resolution. Baghdad has repeatedly denied possessing weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. military sources Friday told CNN that Bush had essentially signed off on a plan to deploy 50,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf region in early January, which would bring the total number of American forces there to more than 100,000.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of the U.S. Central Command, met with Bush and his national security team for a second consecutive day. At the top of the agenda was to put the troop deployment plans in place, and to discuss which troops will head first to the region and what targets are to be selected for any possible war on Iraq, the sources said.
Targeting is among the most sensitive matters to resolve, with questions about how, when, and under what circumstances to bomb selected sites throughout Iraq and its capital, Baghdad.
Bush: Iraqi declaration 'not encouraging'
Bush said Friday that Iraq's United Nations-mandated arms declaration "was not encouraging" and that the United States "will fulfill the terms and conditions" of the resolution.
Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared Iraq in "material breach" of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 because of "flagrant omissions" in that nation's declaration on weapons of mass destruction.
"This is an exaggerated response," Gen. Hussam Mohammed Amin told Reuters when asked to comment on Powell's criticism of the declaration.
"It was political," Amin, the chief Iraqi official working with U.N. weapons inspectors, said by telephone. "Even before they were able to read and analyze the declaration they said it had many gaps." (Full story)
Bush commented on the declaration Friday. "The world spoke clearly that we expect Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm," Bush said during a meeting attended by Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other top international officials.
"Yesterday's document was not encouraging. We expected him to show that he would disarm, and as the secretary of state said, it's a long way from there."
But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Iraqi declaration contains "no troubling definitions which might qualify as violations by Iraq of the U.N. Security Council resolution," according to the Interfax news agency.
On December 7 Iraq delivered to U.N. weapons inspectors what Baghdad said were details of its now inactive weapons of mass destruction programs and possible facilities that might be used to develop them.
The resolution also called on Iraq to abide by all the U.N. resolutions that Iraq promised to follow in a cease-fire agreement reached after it lost the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
• U.S.-British coalition aircraft dropped 240,000 propaganda leaflets Saturday over two cities in southern Iraq, telling Iraqis of radio frequencies broadcasting messages meant to encourage army opposition to Saddam, according to U.S. Central Command. The cities were Al Amarah, 165 miles southeast of Baghdad, and As Samawah, 130 miles southeast of the capital, Central Command's Web site said.
• Weapons inspectors fanned out again across Iraq Saturday, searching for weapons of mass destruction at a site north of Baghdad in Tarmiya, another near the border with Iran and two sites -- an oil refinery and a gas refinery -- inside the capital.
• Iraq's foreign ministry Saturday accused Kuwait of seizing an Iraqi tugboat in Iraqi waters and seizing its four-man crew. The tug, belonging ministry of communication, was pulling a vessel with no cargo, the ministry said. There was no immediate response from Kuwait.