Iraq's deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz warned the United States against trying to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, according to an interview in a German newspaper released Saturday.
Aziz accused US President George W. Bush of using his country's "war against terror" as an excuse for going after Iraq.
In an interview due to appear in the Welt am Sonntag paper on Sunday, Aziz was quoted as saying, "The American president has clearly stated that in Iraq's case, this is not about the war against terrorism or about arms control."
"He wants to get rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein and support an armed opposition to stir up a civil war," he was quoted as saying.
"American-British aggression is expected," Aziz said in Baghdad. "We are ready to take all necessary measures."
Aziz told the German newspaper that any military action would come as the result of US desires to increase its hold on oil in the petrol-rich region, while warning Europeans against allying themselves with Bush.
The United States has asked Britain to draw up plans for 25,000 British troops to join a massive US task force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to the British Observer on Sunday.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's office promptly denied the front-page report.
"No decisions have been taken, yet alone any requests been made," a Downing Street spokesman told AFP.
Under the plan, as reported by the newspaper, Britain would supply soldiers for an overall ground force of an estimated 250,000 troops who would sweep into Iraq in an operation similar to the 1991 Gulf War.
It would be the boldest and riskiest of three main options currently being studied by the British government to tackle Saddam's regime.
Intense speculation that the United States might be preparing to intervene militarily in Iraq has mounted since the end of January, when US President George W. Bush branded the country as part of an "axis of evil", together with Iran and North Korea.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Dick Cheney, who is due to hold talks in London Monday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has fresh evidence of Baghdad's involvement with weapons of mass destruction, the Observer said.
Cheney is stopping in London on the first leg of a 10-nation tour designed to shore up support for action against Iraq.
The second option being considered by London, according to the Observer, is for smaller special forces units to help opposition groups within Iraq.
It would be similar to the tactics used in Afghanistan, where the Northern Alliance had military support to topple the Taliban regime.
The third option, the Observer said, was for "aggressive containment", an intensification of air strikes against Iraq if Saddam does not agree to allow in UN weapons inspectors.
The Downing Street spokesman said Blair's talks with Cheney would deal with a number of issues including Afghanistan, "the wider campaign on terrorism" and weapons of mass destruction, according to AFP.
A British ministry of defense spokesman also refused to comment directly on the Observer report, while stressing that "we do have a close relationship with the Americans." "We will be in this (the campaign against terror) for the long run with the Americans," he added.
"We will give them support wherever we can and this may take us into other areas." (Albawaba.com)
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