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Hussein trying to rebuild forces

Saddam Hussein, trying to rebuild his once fearsome military machine, is doling out big pay raises and bonuses to his troops. Allied officials said Hussein's massive military losses in the gulf war, as well as the systematic destruction of his nuclear, chemical weapons and missile facilities, means that he no longer has much offensive capability.

But by rebuilding his military around the remnants of his Republican Guard, his best and most reliable troops, he can buttress his regime amid Western efforts to topple him by maintaining trade sanctions that are slowly strangling Iraq.

The forces that survived the war were strong enough to crush postwar rebellions by Shiite Muslims in the south and Kurdish guerrillas in the north.

Iran claimed Tuesday that amid continuing unrest in the south, the Iraqis are again moving against Shiite dissidents.

"His concern right now is to gain control of the country and maintain control," said retired U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, director of the national security program at Harvard University.

Trainor, who has observed the Iraqi military at close quarters over the years, said Hussein probably is concentrating his recruiting drive on the ruling Sunni Muslim minority. It has largely remained loyal to Saddam, himself a Sunni.

"Being the dominant class, the Sunnis aren't going to work for pitiful wages," Trainor said.

Two weeks ago, the military newspaper Al-Qadissiyah announced pay hikes and bonuses of up to 500 dinars for new army volunteers.

The starting salary, including food, living and clothing allowances, was increased from 136 to 224 dinars a month. Those with a high school education get 291 monthly, the daily said.

Volunteers will be paid 1,000 dinars each time they re-enlist and will receive land and 6,000 dinars to build houses the first time they do so, al-Qadissiyah said.