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Iraqis Brace for War With U.S.

As the United States calls for the ouster of his president and the threat of war permeates state-run media, school teacher Abdel Kareem Muhsin has just finished a weapons course and now has sent his two teenage sons off for military training.

"I know the weapons we were trained on are not comparable with the technology of the American weapons, but we feel that we are prepared for a fair fight," Muhsin said.

The changes facing the Muhsin family reflect a tension that is unmistakable in Baghdad, though concrete signs of war preparations are few.

People are not streaming out of the capital as they did when it was a target a decade ago in the Gulf War.

The government hasn't started dismantling important factories as it did before a U.S.-British bombing campaign in 1998 after Iraq was accused of failing to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

During that war, history teacher Muhsin and his family of six moved to Baqouba, nearly 50 miles east of Baghdad, to stay with relatives for a few weeks.

Whether President Bush will use military force hasn't been said, and the United States is facing an international chorus calling for caution. In Iraq, the threat of war isn't being taken lightly.

"The Americans changed their goal in their campaign against Iraq from destroying its ability to produce mass destruction weapons to toppling President Saddam Hussein," said Ahmed al-Mousawi, a Baghdad University professor. "We do not know what their next goal will be."

To win international support, Iraq named Naji Sabri foreign minister in April 2001, replacing Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who was shifted to information minister.

Sabri, a former journalist and deputy information minister, was widely viewed as having the flexibility and experience to better represent Iraq abroad.

Sabri and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz have been lobbying the United Nations to resume negotiations on weapons inspectors on Iraq's terms: the ending of sanctions and restoring Iraqi sovereignty over all its territory. The two also have had more success in getting other countries to oppose a possible U.S. strike.

The possibility of war has affected Iraq's currency, the dinar.

Amid the war talk, the dinar lost strength and the government began offering dollars in August at low rates to encourage Iraqis to keep their savings in dinars.

The dinar rallied, strengthening to 1,550 to the dollar -- it had been 1,900 -- but then fell again to almost 2000 to the dollar.

"Currency changes by the hour and I do not know the best way to keep my money," said Jameel Ahmed, a carpenter standing along al-Kifah Street, Baghdad's main money changing area.