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|ISSUE 51 January 11, 2003||
US Boosts Gulf Presence
The United States has announced that it is sending tens of thousands of additional military personnel to the Gulf, for possible action against Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed an order for the reinforcements - up to 35,000-strong - which will include marines and fighter aircraft, as well as three amphibious warfare ships.
This latest move raises the strength of US forces in and around the Gulf to more than 100,000.
BBC Pentagon correspondent Nick Childs says the American intention is to keep up pressure on Iraq, although officials stressed that not all the forces would necessarily deploy immediately.
The US general who will command any American-led attack, Tommy Franks, has been in Washington this week, briefing his political superiors on his plans.
The US is still maintaining that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and says that its stance towards Baghdad remains unchanged.
Meanwhile Greece - which took over the EU presidency this month - said that finding a peaceful settlement to the mounting crisis between Iraq and the US would be one of its priorities.
Earlier on Friday, Turkey granted permission for US officials to inspect its ports and airbases, as part of preparations for a possible war.
The surveys are due to start on Monday and are expected to last about 10 days.
Correspondents say Washington has been keen to get Ankara on side in any military operations against Iraq, although the Turkish government remains skeptical.
The move by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul to allow US teams to inspect Turkish facilities comes a full month after Ankara first agreed in principle to the inspections.
The decision has been delayed over a disagreement on the legal status of the US personnel carrying out the surveys.
Any final approval for the stationing of US troops in Turkey in the event of a war against Iraq would have to be endorsed by parliament - where it is likely to face serious opposition. During the Gulf War of 1991, Turkey's support was critical to the US-led coalition.