WASHINGTON – The Bush administration says it expects widespread military support from other nations for any war against Iraq, but so far only two have publicly committed troops to help put pressure on Saddam Hussein.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week held joint news conferences with officials from Australia and Britain, the only two other nations known to be deploying troops to the Persian Gulf.
The United Kingdom has begun sending forces expected to eventually number 45,000. There will be 35,000 troops, including one-quarter of Britain's army and its biggest naval task force in 20 years. Britain also is sending 75 Royal Air Force airplanes and 27 helicopters to the Gulf in coming weeks and has about 25 aircraft patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq for a dozen years to prevent Iraqi forces from flying there.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Wednesday at a Pentagon news conference that his country has worked diplomatically and a through a military show of force to try to get Saddam to disarm.
"The United Kingdom has been playing an active role diplomatically in securing Resolution 1441 in the United Nations (on Iraq weapons inspections) and obviously militarily by contributing significant forces," he said.
Hoon's visit to Washington came two days after that of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who already has ordered 2,000 military personnel to the Gulf region. Howard has said the troops are meant to put pressure on Iraq and prepare for possible conflict, but has said Australia has not yet agreed to be part of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
After meeting Howard this week, President Bush said he considered Australia part of his so-called "coalition of the willing," prepared to join a U.S. attack.
"Australia does not believe that all of the heavy lifting on something like this should be done by the United States and the United Kingdom alone," Howard said in a joint press conference with Rumsfeld on Monday.
"You are sending a new and sharper signal when you pre-deploy, and that's what we have done, and we've been very willing to do that in cooperation with our American and British friends," Howard said.
Rumsfeld was asked at Wednesday's press conference whether any other countries had agreed to send troops or would it only be the three -- the United States, Britain and Australia.
"The combat and combat support will be from more than three countries," Rumsfeld answered, giving no details.
In the Persian Gulf region, meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states to announce they were sending troops and weapons to defend Kuwait against a possible Iraqi attack.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that the buildup of its forces in the region had reached some 130,000 people, up about 20,000 from a week ago.
That includes the more than 10,000 participating in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, also in the area of responsibility of the U.S. Central Command. Most are in Afghanistan, while others are in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other surrounding nations.