Saddam arrests wife and targets Kuwait again

Saddam Hussein has placed his wife under house arrest and, as domestic pressure on his regime increases, is pondering another invasion of Kuwait, the Pentagon has claimed.

A US military officer said at a briefing on Tuesday that the Iraqi leader has stepped up military exercises following the assassination attempt on his eldest son, Uday, on 12 December. According to the officer, intelligence sources say that Saddam "comes in every morning and makes a decision" on moving his troops closer to Kuwait. The officer said that he did not believe Iraq would attack "tomorrow morning" and Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, said yesterday that he was not aware of "anything that would suggest offensive designs" on Saddam's part.

But the word at the Pentagon, which is monitoring Iraqi troops "very carefully every night", is that Saddam has ordered his forces to escalate their training, possibly to improve the battle readiness of new officers following a purge of senior military figures reported by an Iraqi opposition leader last week.

The Pentagon officer did not elaborate on the circumstances of the arrest of Saddam's wife, but characterised the Iraqi leader's state of mind as "irrational", saying that he could "drive his commanders ... to go south".

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