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Iraqi Militia Carry Out Live Fire Exercises - 2003-01-11

United Nations arms inspectors in Iraq carried on their search for banned weapons Saturday with two visits at military complexes. Iraq's newspapers also reported the ruling Baath party has put thousands of militia forces through live fire exercises to prepare for possible military attack.

As the United States ordered another 35,000 troops to the Gulf, U.N. experts scoured at least five sites on Saturday, searching for banned weapons of mass destruction.

They included the Ibn Sina military complex, 40 kilometers north of Baghdad, where Iraqi scientists tried to enrich uranium to a level suitable for atomic bombs in the 1980s, and another military site northeast of Baghdad.

Iraq's state-run newspapers reported Saturday that military exercises, including live fire maneuvers, had been taking place in the Iraqi capital and in other areas this week to fend off any possible military attack. Armed militia of the ruling Baath party also reportedly paraded through the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf and in Baquba, 50 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Reports of the drills come as the United States is increasing its troop levels in the region to nearly 100,000 by the end of the month. The Bush administration has threatened to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, alleging he is still hiding weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. officials say the Pentagon has been sending e-mail messages to Iraqi generals, warning them against carrying out any order from President Hussein to use chemical or germ weapons against American or allied troops. Meanwhile, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is holding talks in Algeria with leaders there on the weapons standoff with the United States.