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Deployment would shift balance

The Bush administration has decided to expand the number of American forces in the Persian Gulf and may send up to 100,000 more troops to the region, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Thursday. The United States has already sent more than 210,000 troops to the gulf, as part of a planned deployment of some 240,000 troops.

In announcing that more forces would be sent, Cheney said the exact number had not yet been worked out, and he gave no date for completing the American military buildup in the region, the largest since the Vietnam War.

Cheney said some of the additional forces might come from the 50,000 American troops being withdrawn from Western Europe.

Officially, the administration maintained that the move did not signal a policy change. But by announcing it was sending more combat forces and that the additional complement might be substantial, the Pentagon appeared to be trying to add to pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and accept a peaceful settlement on United Nations and American terms.

The additional deployment of large numbers of troops would also transform the American ground force in Saudi Arabia from a largely defensive military to one better suited for offensive action.

Some military planners have been saying for weeks that the United States should deploy two additional heavy divisions if it wanted to open an attack to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which Iraq invaded on Aug. 2.

An Arab diplomatic source familiar with U.S. military planning in the gulf said that top military and Pentagon officials are "looking at" sending two to four more armored or mechanized divisions, which could exceed 80,000 troops.

The additional deployment of large numbers of troops would also transform the American ground force in Saudi Arabia from a largely defensive military to one better suited for offensive action.

An Arab diplomatic source familiar with U.S. military planning in the gulf said that top military and Pentagon officials are "looking at" sending two to four more armored or mechanized divisions, which could exceed 80,000 troops.

Cheney said the United States had not formally decided precisely which additional units to send.

Asked on the CBS News program This Morning whether the administration might send 100,000 more troops to the gulf, Cheney said, "It's conceivable that we'll end up with that big an increase."

Outlook gloomy, ex-CIA head says

CIA Director William Webster, in a gloomy assessment of the prospects that the Persian Gulf crisis can be resolved short of war, Thursday stressed the danger of Iraq's continuing military buildup and the possibility that the United States and its allies eventually will launch a military attack on Iraqi forces.

Declaring that a military offensive "might be precipitated by a range of possible causes," Webster said, "there are a lot of people over there who would like to see this thing come to a head and not stretch out over a long-term economic solution."

Iraq's deployment of "substantial" numbers of additional troops in Kuwait along the Saudi border during the past three weeks, he said, has been "designed to attract a ground war in which high casualties" would be the cost of any attempt to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

Suggesting that Saddam Hussein is unlikely to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait unless forced out militarily, Webster said that the Iraqi dictator "has so tied himself to the mast" that to leave voluntarily would be "a humiliating defeat."

Webster's assessment, in a question-and-answer session following a speech to the National Council of World Affairs Organization, came amid increasing congressional concern that U.S. forces may launch a miliary offensive against Iraq some time after Congress adjourns next week for the rest of the year.

Hussein reportedly expects air raid

An Arab diplomatic source, speaking on condition he not be identified, said Saddam Hussein has changed his daily routine and movements as a result of disclosures that U.S. air forces had targeted him, his mistress and members of his family.

Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Jordan's King Hussein have reported to Western sources having to travel more than 40 miles in a curtained sedan to meet the Iraqi leader at clandestine locations, said the source who is familiar with U.S. military planning.

U.S. intelligence has succeeded, according to this source, in collecting detailed information about Iraq, giving U.S. military commanders confidence that they understand Iraq's battle plans, weapons capabilities, military weaknesses, leadership movements and the control of its forces.

"We're in much better shape than we like to admit," the diplomatic source said.

Israel rejects U.N. resolution

Israel on Thursday firmly rejected the United Nations Security Council's latest resolution calling on the government to reconsider its refusal to accept a United Nations mission investigating the killings at Al Aksa Mosque three weeks ago.

"We are sorry that the United States supported an anti-Israel resolution because they are playing into the hands of Saddam Hussein," said Avi Pazner, a senior aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

But even though the government was unhappy with the second resolution in two weeks criticizing the state, the reaction this time was deliberately muted.

The resolution approved Wednesday did not contain criticism any different from the first one, which condemned Israel for using excessive force to put down rioting at Al Aksa Mosque. The shootings, on Oct. 8, left 21 Palestinians dead.

_ Information from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post was used in this report.

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