Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is flying to Europe for consultations with U.S. allies as the American military build-up for a possible new war with Iraq continues.

Mr. Rumsfeld flew to Europe for meetings in Italy and Germany as the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division announced it has received orders to deploy to the Middle East-South West Asia region.

A statement issued by the air assault unit did not say how many of its 20,000 soldiers or 270 combat helicopters would be heading abroad nor did it say specifically where the 101st's personnel would be going.

It said only the troops were to go to the Central Command's area of responsibility - an area that includes the Gulf as well as Afghanistan.

Members of the 101st provided some of the first combat forces in Afghanistan.

The number of U.S. personnel now deployed in and around the Gulf region, including those in Afghanistan, stands at around 113,000. About 50,000 of those are in Kuwait.

Some Pentagon officials have said the U.S. build-up could eventually total a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

A senior defense official says in his coming talks in Italy and Germany Mr. Rumsfeld, "will not pull any punches" in telling U.S. allies how serious the Bush administration views the security threat posed by Iraq.

Some European allies, including Germany and France, have expressed concern about the prospects of a new war.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have announced yet another leaflet drop over southern Iraq. They say close to half a million leaflets were dropped this time - including some calling on Iraqi civilians to avoid areas where troops congregate. The leaflets also stress coalition forces have no desire to harm the Iraqi people or to destroy their landmarks.