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UK FORCES READY FOR WAR IN IRAQ.

DEFENCE Secretary Geoff Hoon last night confirmed the UK is preparing for war against Iraq.

Baghdad has yet to respond to the new UN resolution which gave Saddam Hussein until Friday to agree to weapons inspections or face "serious consequences"-widely assumed to mean war.

Hoon said the threat of military action had been an important factor in the Iraqi dictator's sudden U-turn over the return of UN weapons inspections teams.

Asked if the UK would be ready for war early next year, Hoon said: "I don't think it would be sensible at this stage to go into that kind of detail."

But he dismissed reports that British fighting forces would not be ready for action until February as "not correct".

He added: "We have to show Saddam Hussein we mean business and, I assure you, we are prepared."

Hoon said the international community's willingness to use force had changed Iraq's attitude.

He said: "Not many months ago, Iraq was saying it would never ever accept the return of weapons inspectors.

"We're obviously expecting them now to accept the will of the international community.

"That is because we have been prepared to indicate a determination to use force, should it become necessary, but I want to emphasise that is a last resort."

Arab leaders have urged Saddam to accept the UN resolution. Speaking at an Arab League meeting in Cairo, Egyptian minister Ahmed Maher said he believed Iraq would comply.

"I think we can expect a positive position by the Iraqis," he said.

However, Hoon refused to rule out military action without a fresh UN mandate.

When it was put to him that the US did not have the authorisation to use force against Saddam without

further reference to the UN, Hoon said: "That's not necessarily the case, no."

Iraq was notified of the UN's ultimatum on Friday.

Saddam must let weapons inspector Hans Blix start work by the 18th and supply a full list of his weapons of mass destruction by December 8.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Nov 11, 2002
Words:334
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