US line on Iraq softens

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday opened the way for an end to the contentious United Nations inspections of suspect Iraqi nuclear sites, saying the site inspections could be replaced by routine monitoring as early as October, writes Mary Dejevsky.

He also said that he anticipated "some reallocation" of US forces in the Gulf, but was waiting on a recommendation from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Adviser before announcing a reduction of the US military presence in the region.

Mr Clinton's remarks, made in response to questions during a formal White House press conference, were the most positive to have come from any senior US official in recent months and augmented remarks made by the US ambassador to the United Nations on Monday. Mr Clinton said the US had been "encouraged by the level of compliance so far with the UN inspections and by the evidence that has been adduced on the nuclear side that more progress has been made".

The US came close to launching a military strike against Iraq at the beginning of the year.