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US Tests Big Bomb; Pentagon in Contact With Iraqi Military - 2003-03-11


The U.S. Air Force has tested a massive new conventional bomb that could be used with devastating effect in any war with Iraq. The test came as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed private communications with the Iraqi military on how to escape attack.

The new bomb tested in the southern state of Florida is a 9,500-kilogram behemoth called the MOAB, an acronym for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, but already dubbed the Mother of All Bombs.

Defense officials said it could be used in any new war with Iraq if it is deemed ready for field deployment. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concedes it could have a psychological impact on the battlefield - especially in Iraq.

"The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition and there's an enormous incentive for Saddam Hussein to leave and spare the world a conflict," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon the United States is already communicating privately with elements of the Iraqi military on how to escape attack. "They will receive instructions so that they behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being non-threatening, and they will not be considered combatants, and they will be handled in a way that they are no longer a part of the problem," he said.

The United States now has more than a quarter-million military personnel in the Gulf region poised for an attack on Iraq if President Bush gives the order. Additional forces continue to flow into the area.

During his news conference, Mr. Rumsfeld renewed U.S. charges that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is deceiving the international community, especially on weapons issues.

He said recent intelligence shows Iraq has ordered uniforms virtually identical to those of U.S. and British forces. He said Iraqi forces could wear them to commit atrocities against civilians.

Challenged by a reporter on the authenticity of such claims, Mr. Rumsfeld declined to discuss U.S. intelligence sources and methods. But he insisted the charges are accurate. "Whether or not you consider them credible is your choice. In the event ground truth is gleaned at some point in the future you'll find they were accurate," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Questions have been raised about the credibility of some U.S. charges brought against Iraq - especially after U.N. investigators dismissed as fabricated, documents cited by the Bush administration to show Iraq had sought uranium for a nuclear arms program from the African nation of Niger.