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Accidents kill 11 from U.S. forces

In the most serious naval accident since Operation Desert Shield began, 10 American sailors on the USS Iwo Jima died Tuesday when a boiler room pipe ruptured, blasting them with high-pressure, super-heated steam. In another accident, a Marine was killed and three injured when their vehicle overturned in the Saudi desert during a night exercise.

Three other sailors were injured Monday when a Marine sentry inexplicably fired at their vehicle, a spokesman said.

The day's deaths raised to 42 the total of U.S. personnel killed since the military buildup against Iraq began. In addition, one serviceman has committed suicide, military officials said.

The accident on the Iwo Jima occurred as the amphibious assault ship, which had just completed a port call for routine maintenance in Manama, Bahrain, was about to join a 10-day U.S. Navy and Marine training exercise in the northern Arabian Sea, military officials said.

The Iwo Jima "was only a couple of miles from the pier when the accident occurred," said Lt. Kevin Wensing, a Navy spokesman.

Cmdr. J. D. Van Sickle said the ship, which is based in Norfolk, Va., and had 685 Navy personnel and 1,100 Marines aboard, was towed back to port.

Military authorities withheld the names of the dead until relatives could be notified.

The Marine who was killed Tuesday died when his vehicle "went over an embankment and dropped approximately 20 feet," according to a military press release.

The accident occurred during a nighttime exercise in which the Marines were moving their desert camp from one site to another, a Marine spokesman said. Two of those injured were treated and released. The third was listed in good condition in a hospital.

Officials also reported Tuesday that three sailors traveling in a military pickup truck were injured Monday afternoon when a Marine sentry "apparently accidentally discharged" two .50-caliber machine-gun rounds at them.

One of the sailors was hit by bullets, one was injured by glass shards and one sustained a concussion. Authorities said the incident is under investigation.

Of the 42 deaths during the deployment of nearly three months, 20 have been from the Air Force. Thirteen of those occurred on Aug. 28 when a C-5A transport plane crashed on takeoff from Germany.

Bush is urged

to move slowly

Congressional leaders urged President Bush on Tuesday to move slowly on any military action against Iraq.

Bush told the lawmakers he is troubled by the "strong moral threat" posed by Iraq's treatment of hostages and Kuwaiti citizens, as well as the potential danger to American embassies.

The hour-and-a-quarter meeting at the White House with the bipartisan congressional leadership was part of an administration attempt to include Congress and the public in explaining Iraq policy after a month of focusing on the budget quagmire.

Sen. William Cohen, a Republican from Maine who was in the meeting, said: "I think it's clear from the president's remarks that his patience is growing thin, that he wants to see, perhaps, greater action taken by the U.N., greater support, that we can bring these sanctions to bear upon Saddam Hussein as quickly as we can. But I think he intends to stay the course for the time being."

"Nobody asked the president to rule out a military option," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "but many of us told him to make sure that we don't use the military option out of impatience."

Although the lawmakers have pressed the president to promise that he will not take military action without congressional approval, Bush repeated Tuesday that he cannot rule out unilateral action.

"I will continue to seek your advice and support as we proceed," the president told the leaders. "We must all understand, however, that any such commitment must be hedged, given the unpredictable and dynamic circumstances of this crisis."

Hussein orders

high alert

President Saddam Hussein of Iraq called a meeting of his top generals on Tuesday and told them to put Iraq's forces on "extreme alert" against the possibility of an imminent American attack.

The Iraqi leader, responding to U.S. moves that have signaled growing impatience over Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, met in Baghdad with the Iraqi forces' general staff and top government officials.

An announcement by the official Iraqi press agency said that Hussein had concentrated in part on the need to prepare for "urban fighting" in Kuwait, where Iraq has amassed tens of thousands of troops and several thousand tanks.

The timing suggested that Hussein wanted to show a bold face at a time when Bush administration officials have given new emphasis to the possibility that Iraq will have to be driven from Kuwait by force.

In a speech Monday, Secretary of State James Baker said Washington "will not rule out a possible use of force if Iraq continues to occupy Kuwait."

Hostages' wives

criticize Bush

The wives of Texas oil field workers held hostage by Iraq said Tuesday the Bush administration is endangering their husbands' lives by renewing threats of military action.

"I don't want them to go in," Marjorie Walterscheid of Jacksboro said of U.S. forces, "because if they do, our husbands are dead."

Walterscheid's husband, Rainard, was captured Aug. 2 as Iraqi forces invaded neighboring Kuwait.

Walterscheid and other Texas hostage families reacted angrily to statements by President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker this week in which they refused to rule out the use of military force against Iraq.

Briefly

Congress passed legislation last week calling for a "National Day of Prayer" on Friday to express support for U.S. troops and U.S. hostages in the Middle East and their families. President Bush had not signed the bill, but White House officials said he would.

One in two Canadians support military action to force Iraq out of Kuwait, according to an opinion poll conducted for the Globe and Mail newspaper and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

_ Information from the New York Times, Washington Post, Scripps Howard News Service, Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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