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         Commander: Peacekeepers offered U.S.-made Stinger missiles for sale


         Iraq accuses UN team of spying, US cools war talk

         Iraq declaration alone won't trigger action says Wolfowitz

         Hungary preparing to receive around 4,500 participants in Iraqi training program


         NATO sees new strike force in place before 2004

         Germany cuts defence to save billions, irks allies


         Iraq could force U.S. Balkan pullout says congressman



         The commander of international peacekeepers in Afghanistan said Wednesday that unidentified individuals, possibly the culprits behind a series of rocket attacks on the capital last week, had offered to sell U.S.-manufactured Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and rocket caches to the multinational force. "After almost each incident we've been receiving some proposals to buy some rockets or missiles," ISAF's Turkish commander, Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, told reporters in Kabul. One man who reportedly tried to sell two Stingers was not taken seriously, however, a spokesman for the multinational force said. No arrests have been made. It was also not clear why the peacekeepers turned away the man offering to sell Stingers rather than arrest him. (AP 041423 Dec 02)




         Iraq on Wednesday accused UN arms inspectors of being U.S. and Israeli spies and helping Washington prepare for possible war on Baghdad, but the United States cooled any talk of imminent military action. It was not immediately clear whether Iraq planned to take any action against the inspectors or whether it was simply an escalation in a war of words with Washington over U.S. accusations that Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction. "The inspectors have come to provide better circumstances and more precise information for a coming aggression," Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan said, speaking just after Baghdad promised to carry on cooperating with the United Nations. (Reuters 050324 GMT Dec 02)

         U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on Wednesday Iraq's UN declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear programs would not in itself trigger a decision by Washington on military action. "We're not going to make it on one single piece of information, but on patterns of information and also close consultation with allies," Wolfowitz said in response to a reporter's question in Brussels. (Reuters 041734 GMT Dec 02)


         Hungary's government held private meetings on Wednesday with municipal leaders living near a military base that may be used to train Iraqi opposition members backing the United States in case of military action against Iraq. Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said, however, that while U.S. officials have made inquiries about the possible use of the Taszar base, no official request has yet been received. The training would likely take place in two shifts beginning in late January or early February and involve a total of around 4,500 people, including the trainees and their American trainers, the minister said. (AP 041743 Dec 02)




         NATO's strike force for high-intensity combat could be up and running well before the October 2004 deadline set by leaders of the 19-nation alliance, the chairman of NATO's military committee said on Wednesday. "Since we have highly qualified units already, it won't take until the end of 2004," General Harald Kujat told a news conference after a meeting of chiefs of staff at NATO's headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters 041755 GMT Dec 02)


         Germany plans billions of euros of defence cuts aimed at reining in its budget deficit, a move critics say could undermine its military commitments to increased peacekeeping and to a planned joint European force. Germany's review of defence spending will see it cut its order for Airbus A400M military transport planes to 60 from 73, Defence Minister Peter Struck told parliament on Wednesday. It is also expected to trim purchases of Eurofighter jets and Meteor and IRIS-T missile systems. Struck is due to announce details on Thursday. (Reuters 041641 GMT Dec 02)




         A leading American congressman warned on Wednesday that if the United States became tied down in Iraq it might pull its peacekeepers out of the Balkans, increasing pressure on Europe to send more forces. "If we are overextended in Iraq for whatever reason in the future, that is going to mean that we may have to transfer assets out of the former Yugoslavia," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Judiciary Committee chairman in the U.S. House of Representatives, told journalists. "That is going to put an increased burden on Europe in general and Germany in particular to keep the lid on the former Yugoslavia." Sensenbrenner made the remarks after calling for Chancellor Schroeder's government to undo the damage of anti-American rhetoric in the recent German campaign and back possible war plans against Baghdad. "I think the burden is on Germany to restore the trust that has been lost as a result of this campaign," he added. (Reuters 041755 GMT Dec 02)




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