Tensions Heighten in the Gulf

As we go to press, a serious military confrontation in Iraq looks ever more likely.

The United States sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright first to Europe, then to the Middle East, to explain Washington's position on ending Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations over weapons inspections.

Senior officials warned that time was running out for a diplomatic solution if Iraq was to be prevented from using weapons of mass destruction Hussein is widely believed to possess.

And US President Bill Clinton told a military function that while a military solution wasn't the first answer, it sometimes turned out to be the only answer. The US has amassed the largest military force in the region since the 1991 Gulf War. Britain has also sent two aircraft carriers.

Arab participants at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, voiced concern about the impact of military action on the economies of the countries in the region. But, the BBC reported on January 30, privately some expressed the hope that a strike would succeed in putting an end to Saddam Hussein's recalcitrance.

Israeli leaders urged citizens to keep calm, saying it was thought unlikely that Hussein would launch missiles at Israel, as he had during the Gulf War. Some reports quoted Israeli officials as warning that a non-conventional attack on Israel would prompt a nuclear response.

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