The U-S military buildup around Iraq continues, as an aircraft carrier is placed on alert for possible quick deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Defense officials say the U-S-S George Washington could be ordered to sail to the Gulf with 96 hours notice.
The carrier's battle group would strengthen U-S forces in the region with about 75 aircraft and several additional warships.
The carrier and its ships had docked in Norfolk, Virginia only week ago (December 20th) after a six-month stay in the Gulf. The U-S-S Harry Truman and its battle group were sent to the Gulf in early December to take their place.
In Iraq today (Friday), U-N weapons inspectors interviewed an Iraqi scientist, who - a spokesman said - provided technical details on an Iraqi military program. Spokesman Hiro Ueki described the program as a "possible prelude to a clandestine nuclear program."
He said the unnamed scientist's answers will be of "great use" as inspectors from the U-N nuclear agency assess whether Iraq is still trying to build nuclear weapons.
Inspection teams also visited three sites near Baghdad today, including an engineering company and two factories that make alcoholic products.
Meanwhile, Russia is expressing renewed concern over repeated U-S and British airstrikes in Iraq. The Russian Foreign Ministry says the airstrikes in the "no-fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq hamper efforts to resolve the standoff between Iraq and the United Nations over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq said a U-S-British airstrike in southern Iraq Thursday killed three people and injured 16 others. The U-S military's Central Command said the warplanes attacked a military communications center after Iraqi military aircraft violated the no-fly area.
The United States and Britain set up the no-fly zones after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent Iraqi forces from attacking minority Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.
Meanwhile, coalition airplanes dropped 240-thousand leaflets over three locations in southern Iraq today (Friday). The leaflets list radio frequencies where the U-S military is broadcasting messages urging Iraqis to withhold support for Saddam Hussein, and to cooperate with U-N weapons inspections.