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U.S. Reconsiders Additional Troops For Kuwait as Dole Criticizes Policy

By John F. Harris and Dana Priest
The Washington Post

The Clinton administration Monday was reconsidering whether to send several thousand Army troops to Kuwait, despite winning Kuwait's belated approval of the move, as officials said such a warning gesture to Iraq may no longer be necessary.

"We have sought no confrontation with (President) Saddam Hussein," President Clinton told reporters at the White House. "We never did and we don't now. My concern is that we limit Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten his neighbors, that we do it with the no-fly zone and, in so doing, we keep our pilots safe."

Clinton's measured rhetoric came as officials made clear they found Iraq's recent actions, including an announced halt in attacks on patrolling U.S. aircraft, at least tentatively encouraging. "We believe (Saddam) is assuming a less threatening posture," said one White House national security official.

But the nation's top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili, expressed concern about Iraq's apparent efforts to protect some of its air defenses, and left open the possibility that U.S. air strikes might be necessary.

Shalikashvili said the United States has the means in the region to deliver a tough military response - including two aircraft carriers and eight radar-evading F-117 jet fighters recently sent to Kuwait - but said it is not clear whether this arsenal will be used.

Clinton planned to meet Tuesday morning with a bipartisan delegation from Capitol Hill at the White House to review the results of Perry's journey, and better explain the administration's approach in containing Saddam. White House officials cautioned that the meeting with lawmakers was intended to be informational, not an attempt to line up support for a military attack.

Congressional sentiment regarding Iraq has grown restive in recent days, with many lawmakers protesting that the administration has not done enough to consult with them or explain its Iraq policy.

Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, who in recent days had stayed above the fray while surrogates took aim at Clinton on Iraq, joined in. "I'm not certain what the policy is in Iraq," Dole said in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC's "Good Morning, America."