The U-S Army has launched its biggest military exercise in the Persian Gulf region since the Gulf war, in preparation for possible war with Iraq.
The two day and night live-fire exercises in the Kuwaiti desert involve thousands of troops from the army's Third Division and hundreds of armored vehicles.
In one maneuver Saturday, an army spokesman said an armored brigade sent its high speed M1 Abrams tanks against forward positions that resembled Iraqi trenches and minefields.
Third Division Major General Buford Blount told reporters the exercises involve what he called one of the best trained divisions in the army. President Bush has threatened war against the Baghdad government unless it discloses and destroys its suspected weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, the New York Times says U-S military planners have visited northern Iraq in recent weeks, to examine potential base sites for use in any war against Baghdad. The report says a team from the Central Intelligence Agency arrived in the northern town of Dohuk Thursday, under the escort of Kurdish gunmen.
The report quotes Kurdish officials as saying the Americans have questioned members of the militant Muslim group Ansar al-Islam, who are in the custody of Kurdish security forces.
The Americans were reported looking for links between the anti-Kurdish Muslim group and the al-Qaida terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, U-N arms inspectors continued their search Saturday for banned weapons. Weapons experts visited at least eight sites across the country, including an oil refinery south of Baghdad and a communications center near the Iranian border.
Inspectors also probed several other sites in and around Baghdad, including a pharmaceutical factory about 120 kilometers north of the capital.