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IRAQIS FEAR U.S. MIGHT STILL ATTACK

Iraq said Thursday a U.S. attack could not be ruled out as the elite Republican Guards pledged loyalty to President Saddam Hussein and thousands of demonstrators shouted slogans in his favor.

An Iraqi official, writing in the Babel newspaper published by Saddam's eldest son, Uday, said he did not rule out the possibility of an attack by America.Nouri al-Marsoumi, senior undersecretary at the Culture and Information Ministry, said that Washington resorted to conspiracy against Iraq whenever the Iraqis saw some hope of a possible easing of sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"(U.S.) conspiracy may take the shape of direct military aggression or fabricating a crisis which will facilitate the operation of direct military intervention," Marsoumi said.

Iraqi newspapers carried a telegram from the Republican Guards' chief of staff in which he said his forces can defend Iraq against enemies and traitors.

"In the name of all the heroic fighters in the Republican Guards, rank and file, we renew the pledge of allegiance and loyalty for your excellency," the papers quoted a top army officer as saying.