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The United States could begin pulling its warships out of the Persian Gulf as soon as a cease-fire takes effect in the Iran-Iraq war, says the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

Rep. William Dickinson of Alabama spoke during a visit to the gulf this week, shortly after Iraqi warplanes raided an unfinished nuclear power plant and other Iranian industrial targets.On Monday, Iran said it would accept a U.N. cease-fire proposal, but Iraq called the announcement a trick to buy time for surprise attacks.

Dickinson said in an interview that a gradual reduction in U.S. forces could begin as soon as a cease-fire is implemented and the political and diplomatic process permit it.

"The extraction of our forces is going to be very simple. We don't have anything on the ground. All we have to do is wind that ship up and go."

Until a year ago, the United States had had a small naval force in the gulf since 1948. Now it has 27 warships in the region.