BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.N. inspectors took their investigation into Iraqi arms programs to Baghdad science and technology colleges on Monday, while state-run media touted Iraqis' determination to carry on with their lives despite the rapid U.S. military buildup in the Gulf.
Teams of U.N. nuclear and chemical weapons experts visited Baghdad's technological university and two science colleges, according to the Information Ministry. A nuclear team also visited the Ibn Rushed company, which it said repairs and maintains firefighting equipment and provides quality control for construction materials.
Other teams were still en route to destinations outside the Iraqi capital. Iraqi liaisons accompany inspectors, but to preserve the surprise element, they aren't necessarily told where they are heading.
The United States and Britain have accelerated their military buildup in the Gulf in preparation for a possible invasion of Iraq to rid it of mass destruction weapons. Iraq denies it has such weapons and says it's fully cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors. The inspectors resumed work in Iraq Nov. 27 after a nearly four-year break.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week signed deployment orders to send about 62,000 more U.S. troops to the Gulf — doubling the current troop strength in the region.
On Monday, the British Ministry of Defense confirmed that a contingent of British troops had arrived in Kuwait for military exercises. The British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal also set sail Saturday toward the Gulf at the head of the country's biggest naval deployment since the 1982 Falklands War.
Washington should have sufficient forces in place in early February to wage war against Iraq, though the White House says President Bush hasn't yet decided whether to attack.
Iraq remains defiant in the face of the biggest military buildup in the Gulf since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. U.S.-led airstrikes and a brief ground campaign routed Iraqi forces in early 1991.
"While preparing itself to face all possibilities, Iraq ... will not be distracted from its present and future by America's loud talk, and will not allow it to disrupt its life," said a front-page editorial in Al-Thawra, newspaper of President Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party.
Calling the U.S. President "little Bush," the daily Babil — owned by Saddam's eldest son Odai — accused Washington in an editorial of "beating the drums of war although the Americans know that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction."
Meanwhile, American forces have been carrying out numerous military exercises just south of the Iraqi border, in Kuwait, in preparation for any war. On Monday, they practiced room-to-room, building-to-building warfare at an abandoned quartz mine.
Leaders of several pro-Western countries in the region, meanwhile, warned Sunday that a new war would inflame the volatile Middle East and urged Iraq to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors to avoid conflict.
Jordan's King Abdullah II spoke of a "tragedy" should a war breaks out and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, speaking during a visit to Iran, warned that countries in the region would suffer "heavy losses" in the event of war. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak said a war in Iraq "will have horrible repercussions."
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said his kingdom has presented a proposal to Arab states to solve the Iraqi crisis but he gave no details.
"I believe if this proposal is accepted, it will help solve many problems," he said without elaborating.