- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

LONDON A war in Iraq seems to be growing near, yet the American general who would lead an invasion says he believes he has time to strengthen the force and change its attack plans.

"There are a lot of pieces in play," Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in an Associated Press interview Monday while flying to London from his Tampa, Fla., headquarters.

Gen. Franks met yesterday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the British defense staff. Afterward, he flew to Qatar, an emirate in the central Persian Gulf area, to meet with commanders.

Britain is contributing more than 40,000 land, sea and air forces to the buildup there.

Gen. Franks said the deployment of U.S. forces in the Gulf region has not reached the point at which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has asked him whether he has all the firepower he needs to attack.

"There may come a day when he asks me, 'Are you satisfied that you have enough?' And I will tell you truthfully, he has not asked me that question," Gen. Franks said in the one-hour interview.

There are more than 180,000 U.S. air, land and sea personnel arrayed against Iraq, and the number grows daily.

U.S. forces are keeping up the psychological pressure inside Iraq by warning soldiers not to carry out any order from Saddam to use chemical or biological weapons. On Monday, U.S. planes dropped 360,000 leaflets over several areas in southern Iraq, including Al Kut, Az Zubayr, Qalat Salih, Salman Az Azhir and Salman and Basra.

The leaflets, according to the Central Command, state that any Iraqi army unit using weapons of mass destruction will face "prompt and appropriate responses by coalition forces."

Gen. Franks said Mr. Rumsfeld has not informed him that President Bush has decided to use force to disarm Iraq.

"What that means to [me] is we still have a great many pieces of the mosaic that can be moved around in a lot of different ways," he said. "It's in my interest to move those pieces around in ways that are good for us. It's condition-setting. What you want to do is you want to set conditions. And the conditions we have set to date may be different than the conditions we'll have set tomorrow or in the middle of April or whenever."

Although he said he was not focused on Saddam Hussein as a target, Gen. Franks had harsh words for the Iraqi president.

"We have a firm conviction that Saddam Hussein rapes, murders and abuses his own people, that he threatens the Western world and a great many nations in the international community and we're one of them that he has the capability to bring his threats to reality," Gen. Franks said. "And it seems to us this should not stand."


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