KUWAIT - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
William Burns said on Saturday the United States has yet to
decide on whether to use military force against Iraq and that
Washington plans to discuss the issue with its Gulf War allies.
``The (U.S.) President and Secretary (of State Colin) Powell
made clear there has not been any decision made with regard to
particular options but they have also made clear that all
options are available,'' Burns told a news conference in Kuwait
at the start of a tour of the region.
``But we will consult really closely with our friends in
Kuwait and other countries of the region on this subject,'' he
Burns met Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad
al-Sabah and other senior Kuwaiti officials before heading to
Bahrain, his next stop. He is also expected to visit Qatar,
United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The United States launched military strikes on Afghanistan
in October to flush out Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden,
accused by Washington of masterminding the September 11
Speculation has intensified that the United States is about
to start a new phase of its ``war on terrorism,'' possibly
attacking countries such as Somalia, Iraq or Sudan.
President Bush recently warned that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein would ``find out'' the consequences if he did not
re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors, triggering
speculation that Iraq might be the United States' next target.
``At the moment, our focus with regard to military questions
is on the campaign in Afghanistan and the al Qaeda network and
that is something we are determined to finish,'' Burns said.
Iraq is on a U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism, but
Baghdad denies any links to international terrorism.
``We have, like Kuwait, some serious concerns about the
behavior of the (Iraqi) regime...its failure to abide by its
U.N. Security Council obligations with regard to weapons of
mass destruction, inspectors and missing Kuwaitis,'' Burns said.
The Arab League, of which Kuwait is a member, has declared
its opposition to any attack on Iraq.
The U.N. inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, shortly
before a U.S.-British bombing campaign, and have not been
allowed to return since.
Iraq, under international sanctions over its 1990 invasion
of Kuwait, says it has no weapons of mass destruction and wants
a complete end to the U.N. embargo.
Some 8,000 U.S. ground troops are now stationed in Kuwait,
involved in desert exercises.
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