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Officials Pressure Iraqi Commanders To Resist Defending ‘Doomed Regime’

By Dan Balz and Dana Milbank

As U.S. and British ground forces moved into southern Iraq, Bush administration officials on Thursday pressured Iraq military commanders to resist defending President Saddam Hussein’s “doomed regime” and warned that full-scale war will trigger an air and ground assault involving force never seen in the history of warfare.

“The days of the Saddam Hussein regime are numbered,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

President Bush, after a meeting with his Cabinet, praised the “great skill and great bravery” of the military forces operating in the Persian Gulf and emphasized that more than 40 nations support the war in some form or another. U.S. officials went to great lengths to try to knock down criticism that the operation represents a largely unilateral action.

Beyond the action underway in the gulf, the administration moved on several other fronts to squeeze the Iraqi regime and protect American citizens from a possible retaliatory terrorist attack.

FBI agents moved aggressively to round up Iraqi nationals who are violating immigration laws and stepped up surveillance of those believed to be sympathetic to either Saddam or terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

The agency also initiated a global manhunt for a Saudi-born man suspected to be a member of the al-Qaida terrorist network who they believe may be planning new terrorist attacks, describing Adnan El Shukrijumah, 27, as a possible al-Qaida member “suspected of planning terrorist activities” against the United States and an “imminent threat.”

The president issued an executive order designed to seize $1.5 billion in Iraqi government assets that were frozen in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the funds, along with another $600 billion in Iraqi assets frozen by Britain and 10 other countries, would be used to help finance the reconstruction of Iraq once the war is over. Snow said the United States also would seek an estimated $6 billion that government officials believe Saddam and his family have obtained illegally and put in concealed accounts.

The State Department expelled four Iraqi diplomats and made an unusual appeal to other nations that formal relations with the regime to kick out Iraqi diplomats. A State Department spokesman said the United States wanted to pave the way for new Iraqi representatives to take up posts around the world once an interim government is in place after the war.

The start of the war set off huge anti-war protests overseas and demonstrations in about 500 cities across the country.