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U.S. tracking Iraqi troop movement

From Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon

Iraqi soldiers pictured in this file photograph were near Taji, north of Baghdad.
Iraqi soldiers pictured in this file photograph were near Taji, north of Baghdad.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military tracked on Wednesday an Iraqi military operational deployment west of Baghdad that includes several hundred troops and armored equipment, Pentagon sources tell CNN.

The reported Iraqi troop movements came as U.S. President George W. Bush threatened possible military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling for it to reveal and then disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad has repeatedly denied possessing such weapons -- chemical, nuclear or biological.

The deployment, near Ar Ramadi, includes two mechanized infantry battalions and two armored battalions. It includes more than 60 tanks and 30 armored personnel carriers. It is not clear if the units are fully manned and equipped, given the poor operating status of many Iraqi ground-force units, sources tell CNN.

The United States believes the deployment is for defensive reasons. One military source said these types of deployments have occurred in this region in the past. The last time one was observed in this region was in late 2000, when the Iraqis were making a show of force as tensions rose between the Israelis and Palestinians, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. intelligence continues to keep intensive surveillance on far western Iraq for any signs of more significant troop movements. The Iraqis are continuing other routine defensive measures such as building barriers and protective shields for their equipment at various locations.

On December 7, Iraq delivered to U.N. weapons inspectors 11,000 pages of what Baghdad said were details of its abandoned weapons of mass destruction programs and possible facilities that might be used to develop them.

U.N. Resolution 1441 -- passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on November 8 -- demanded the Iraqi documents be handed over by December 8.

The November 8 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.

On Wednesday, senior administration officials said that Bush is poised to declare that Iraq has, in the view of the United States, fallen far short of its requirement to provide a complete and accurate accounting of its alleged weapons programs in violation of U.N. resolutions. But the officials said the Bush national security team is not pushing for immediate military confrontation.

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