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Iraq More Likely to Attack Ships Than Saudi Arabia, Experts Now Say

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Iraq is strengthening its forces in Kuwait and on the Turkish border, but it shows no intention of invading Saudi Arabia, security officials told Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday.

The experts voiced their fear that the longer the Persian Gulf crisis continues, the more chance there is that the United States may lose the support of nations participating in the multinational force defending Saudi Arabia and enforcing the embargo against Iraq.

The U.N. Security Council voted 13-0 early Saturday to empower member states to enforce the embargo by blocking shipping to and from Iraq.

Israeli defense experts said that, rather than invade Saudi Arabia, the Iraqis might be inclined to attack American or allied ships involved in efforts to enforce the blockade.

The defense officials said that Jordan’s King Hussein is continuing to assist Iraq in a number of ways, despite his pledge to President Bush that he would abide by international sanctions imposed on Iraq.

OPPOSITION TO ARMS SALES

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said in a television interview Sunday that the king’s behavior was contrary to Israel’s interests, a danger to its security and would not help Hussein’s political survival at all. Jordan’s heavily Palestinian population is largely supportive of the Iraqi invasion.

But Shamir said the Jordanian monarch was well aware of the fact that Israel had no aggressive intentions against him.

The prime minister also reiterated Israel’s determination to stay out of the conflict, if possible.

“When it comes to confrontations, we do not necessarily want to be at the front of the stage,” Shamir told the Arabic program of Israel Television.

“When Israel is hurt, we must react,” he said, “but when she is not, one does not have to make other considerations.”

Asked whether he foresaw a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis, Shamir said it would only be possible if all of Saddam Hussein’s demands were fulfilled. Since that is highly unlikely, he said, the crisis would soon near its climax.

The premier also restated Israel’s opposition to the sale of sophisticated arms to Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia. He said that the fall of Kuwait’s Western-produced weapons into Iraqi hands was further proof of the risks involved in such arms sales.

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