Rumsfeld: Iraqi borders should be sealed
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Italian counterpart Antonio Martino talked with reporters at the Pentagon Friday, after they had met to discuss U.S.-Italian cooperation, Iraq and NATO affairs.
Rumsfeld answered questions about Iraq saying the United States is in conversations within the United Nations on the so-call "smart sanctions" being contemplated against Saddam Hussein's regime.
Iraq has porous borders, Rumsfeld said, and a lot of contraband moves across these borders. "It's common knowledge in the world that Iraq has an enormous appetite for weapons of mass destruction and military capabilities," he said.
"There's no question that if you have a determined dictator as we do with Saddam Hussein that he's going to continue to improve his military capability as he has been in recent months," the secretary said.
Iraq has taken civilian goods and converted them to military uses, he said. Iraq will continue to try to purchase these dual-use technologies, sanctions or not, he added.
"Whether or not it's likely those borders will be sealed and prevent things that will enhance Iraq's military capability (from entering the country) I think the answer is it will not," he said.
Meanwhile, the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) said the Iraqi government has massed troops at the border with Kurdish areas ahead of a "new aggression" against the towns of Suleimaniya and Erbil.
"The dictatorial regime in Baghdad has over the past three days dispatched large troop contingents, backed up by tanks and heavy artillery, to areas adjacent to Iraqi Kurdistan," the INC said in a statement.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a Western-protected Kurdish enclave that was established in northern Iraq in 1991.
The statement said the troops had occupied "offensive positions" in the provinces of Erbil and Kirkuk, "ahead of a new aggression against the towns Suleimaniya and Erbil".
The latter is ruled by Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the former by Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the parties who share control of the enclave.
KDP spokesman Dilshad Miran, contacted in London by AFP, played down the deployment, saying it was "a normal preventative measure due to US threats" against Iraq. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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