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White House: 'No timetable' for Iraq action

Capt. Kenrick Herrmann and his son Pierce say goodbye during deployment day festivities at an Army Reserve post in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Capt. Kenrick Herrmann and his son Pierce say goodbye during deployment day festivities at an Army Reserve post in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed deployment orders to send more U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf. CNN's Patty Davis reports (January 13)
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While claiming U.N. inspectors are gathering intelligence, Iraq says it will continue to cooperate. CNN's Rym Brahimi reports.
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(CNN) -- Although U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq could take about a year to complete, a White House spokesman said Monday that President Bush has "no timetable" for how long U.S. troops massing in the Persian Gulf region will stay there awaiting orders to act.

Bush has said he will consider military force if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fails to prove to the U.N. Security Council that his nation has no weapons of mass destruction.

However, Bush has not said how long he will wait for that verification, Ari Fleischer told reporters.

"The president has not put any type of artificial timetable on how long he believes it is necessary for Saddam Hussein to prove to the world that he's going to comply," Fleischer said.

The inspectors are expected to check hundreds of sites before they are finished.

Earlier, International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Mark Gwozdecky had said U.N. inspectors in Iraq could take up to a year to complete their work. (Full story)

His remarks came days after U.S. military planners ordered tens of thousands of extra troops to the gulf region.

Inspection teams visited several sites Monday, including the University of Technology in Baghdad and the College of Science for Men and College of Science for Women at the University of Baghdad.

The United States has said it has information that proves Iraq possesses prohibited weapons. But U.N. inspectors said they have found no "smoking gun" as they scour Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed deployment orders Friday for 62,000 troops, which will nearly double the size of the U.S. military force in the Persian Gulf region.

Pentagon sources have estimated that the United States could have 200,000 to 250,000 regular, National Guard and reserve troops in the region by mid-February.

Amid talk of war, military movements and weapons inspections, Pope John Paul II said Monday that war with Iraq should be "the very last option."

"War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity," the pontiff said in his annual State of the World address to diplomats assigned to the Vatican from 175 countries.

"International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: These are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences."

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