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Inspectors question scientists

Kuwait's Operation Christmas program provides holiday gifts to U.S. personnel.  Santa paid a visit to the troops Tuesday at Camp Commando in the desert.
Kuwait's Operation Christmas program provides holiday gifts to U.S. personnel. Santa paid a visit to the troops Tuesday at Camp Commando in the desert.

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WHAT IT MEANS

CNN Correspondent Rym Brahimi on the Predator drone lost over southern Iraq: 

"They broadcast pictures last night  of this unmanned plane that was shot down, or what was left of it. And the commentary when they broadcast those pictures was, 'These are the planes that the American enemy uses to spy on our civilian and military installations.'

"This morning, the newspaper headlines are hailing this as a heroic act, saying that this was an act of bravery and heroism on the part of Iraq's air force and air defense.  It's not the first time this has happened, and the Iraqis believe that the no-fly zones that are patrolled by U.S. and British planes in the south and the north of the country are illegal, that they're not included in any U.N. resolution, and therefore that they violate Iraq's national sovereignty."

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• Special Report: Showdown: Iraq 

(CNN) -- With events moving closer to a possible war on Iraq, here is a look at some of the latest developments around the world:

ROAD TO WAR?

• QUIZZING SCIENTISTS: U.N. weapons inspectors have stepped up their search in Iraq and have begun interviewing Iraqi nuclear scientists, the International Atomic Energy Agency says. (Full story)

• SADDAM'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: A television announcer Tuesday delivered a Christmas Eve message from President Saddam Hussein denying Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and accusing the United States of making up lies to excuse attacking "Iraq and our peace-loving people." (Full story)

• COUNTING COSTS: The United Nations estimates at least $37 million in humanitarian aid would be needed in Iraq if war comes, a U.N. spokesman says. The U.N. contingency work includes planning for pre-positioning of supplies such as food and tents and for logistics and communication. (Full story)

• SAND AND SANTA: In Kuwait, about 12,000 U.S. servicemen and women are the focus of Operation Christmas, a program aimed at giving gifts to the troops. More than 100,000 gifts will be handed out, 90 percent by Kuwaitis. (Full story)

WAR OF WORDS

The inspectors wanted to know "all the progress that has been made after 1998 until now. I explained to them all that I know," says nuclear scientist Dr. Sabah Abdul Noor of Baghdad University of Technology. Noor describes the atmosphere as "very friendly, actually." He says he was not asked to leave the country.

"It's the whole humanitarian community of the U.N. system that sits down and says, 'What would we need as a minimum for the first phase of the fallout from a military action in Iraq?'" says U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard. "And the High Commissioner for Refugees would say, 'Well, at the very minimum at the outset we should be prepared for a certain number of displaced persons or refugees. Let's have X blankets, X food.' On that basis they came up with this $37.4 million list."

IMPACT

• Germany will not give a single euro to any war effort in Iraq, its finance minister has declared. Hans Eichel said Germany's weak economy could not cope with providing any financial assistance to a U.S. strike on Iraq. Berlin contributed $5.5 billion to U.S.-led efforts during the 1991 Gulf War at a time when it was constitutionally unable to send troops. That restriction has now been lifted, but the government of Gerhard Schroeder has voiced opposition to a military strike on Baghdad. (Full story)

• Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld was asked whether the United States was capable of pursuing war against Iraq and North Korea at the same time. (The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea could be a few months away from producing plutonium if it is allowed to remove monitoring equipment from a deactivated reactor.) Rumsfeld's reply: "We are capable of fighting two major regional conflicts ... We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other, and let there be no doubt about it." (Full story)



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