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Iraq whips up patriotic fervor as envoys work to avert attack

Iraq sought to stir up patriotic fervor Friday among citizens facing a threatened U.S. attack, devoting much of state-run television to footage of Saddam Hussein, the 1991 Persian Gulf War and civilians training for a new defense force.

The martial broadcasts came as envoys from Russia and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority worked to avert an attack, pressing Iraq for a compromise in a crisis over Iraq's refusal to allow U.N. inspectors into Saddam's palaces and other key sites.Another envoy, from the Arab League, left Baghdad saying an unspecified agreement was in the works.

In Baghdad, state-run television showed even more film clips of Saddam than usual, as well as scenes of Iraqi men marching in the week-old training program for a civilian defense force.

The announcer then intones: "Hiroshima, Hanoi . . . Iraq."

The United States and Britain, despite opposition from Russia, France and China and clear unease among Arab allies, have pressed ahead with their threat to attack Iraq if it does not provide full access to U.N. weapons inspectors working in the country.

President Clinton, in a joint news conference Friday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said, "On Iraq, we stand together.. . . The prime minister and I would both prefer a genuine diplomatic solution" that would get the U.N. inspectors back to work. However, he said, "If Saddam does not comply with the unanimous will of the international community, we must be prepared to act, and we are."

Defense Secretary William Cohen said Friday he is ordering dozens more warplanes into the Persian Gulf region as he moves to convince allies that America is planning a "substantial" strike against Iraq.

Cohen, speaking with reporters en route to a weekend defense conference in Munich, Germany, said he planned to formally approve the package of strike and support aircraft within the next day or so.

Until the U.N. inspectors certify that Iraq has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction and the means to build them, the Security Council will not consider lifting sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the gulf war.

Iraq says it has done so, and Iraqi officials have repeatedly said they believe Washington is determined to keep the punishing sanctions in place regardless of what Iraq does. Iraq contends inspections at the off-limit sites would violate national sovereignty.

As part of the military buildup, the USS Independence arrived in the gulf on Thursday with a submarine and four other ships. It joined two other U.S. aircraft carriers - the USS Nimitz and the USS George Washington - and a British carrier, the HMS Invincible.

Clinton, meanwhile, ordered ships carrying 2,000 Marines into the region to join the 24,000 American forces.

Iraq has sought to encourage support from other Arab nations.

Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid left Friday, a day after Turkish and French envoys went home. He said a proposal was in the works to end the standoff, but offered no details.

"There is a problem and there are differences in viewpoints. We don't deny that, but there is a desire that we reach a peaceful solution," Abdel-Meguid said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was quoted as saying that an attack on Iraq could hamper the long-term monitoring of Iraq's capability to build weapons of mass destruction.

Despite the tension, U.N. inspections of other sites went on as usual. The Iraqi News Agency quoted Gen. Hussam Amin, head of the Iraqi monitoring committee that works with the inspectors, as saying that 13 inspection teams visited 12 sites on Wednesday.