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Iraq: U.S. President Issues New Warning

Washington, 23 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- President George W. Bush has issued new warnings to Iraq, even as U.S. allies France and Germany say everything must be done to avoid war. With U.S. ground, sea, and air forces continuing to mass in the Persian Gulf region, Bush yesterday warned Iraq's generals against using weapons of mass destruction in a possible war with U.S.-led forces. "Should any Iraqi officer or soldier receive an order [to use weapons of mass destruction] from [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein or his sons or any of the killers who occupy the high levels of their government, my advice is, don't follow that order, because if you choose to do so, when Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried, and persecuted [sic] as a war criminal," Bush said.

Bush said Iraq is not disarming itself of weapons of mass destruction, as demanded by the United Nations, and again accused the Iraqi regime of deceiving UN weapons inspectors.

Earlier in Paris, President Jacques Chirac said France and Germany were in agreement that everything must be done to avoid a war in Iraq. Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder both said they believe UN weapons inspectors need more time to complete their work in Iraq.

Meanwhile, six Middle Eastern states are due to meet today in Turkey to discuss ways of averting a possible war against Iraq. The meeting in Istanbul will bring together the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbors Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Egypt's foreign minister will also attend.

The ministers are expected to urge a peaceful solution to the crisis and to call on Iraq to comply fully with UN disarmament demands.

Officials have said the meeting is not expected to discuss arranging possible exile for Hussein.

Iraq's neighboring countries have warned that a war could lead to regional instability, causing economic and social damage.

The European Union has welcomed the meeting. Greece, current holder of the rotating EU Presidency, said the EU supports all efforts to end the Iraq crisis peacefully, particularly by countries in the region.

Separately, Saudi Arabia's official news agency reported that Saudi border guards have arrested a Kuwaiti man suspected of killing an American and wounding another in Kuwait earlier this week. The Saudi Press Agency quoted a Saudi Interior Ministry official as saying the man was arrested as he tried to enter Saudi territory from neighboring Kuwait and would be handed over to Kuwaiti custody.

The report said an initial investigation had revealed that the man was the attacker who shot and killed a 46-year-old American man and wounded another in an ambush on 21 January near Camp Doha, the main U.S. Army base in Kuwait.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The two American men were described as civilian contractors who were working for the U.S. military in Kuwait.