December 29, 2002
Report: Attack on Iraq to start on Feb. 21; Saudis to allow air support missions from Saudi bases
A British tabloid newspaper said Sunday that a US-led war on Iraq would begin on February 21 "at midnight".
The Sunday Express said the date and time was given by US President George W Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a telephone call over Christmas.
"The timing is confirmed by British defence chiefs, who have been told to expect war in the second or third week in February," the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has privately assured U.S. officials they could launch air support missions from Saudi bases in the event of a war with Iraq and could coordinate the air war from a central command post near the Saudi capital, Pentagon officials said Saturday.
Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Saturday she could not comment on specific arrangements the Pentagon has made with Saudi Arabia or any other ally. She said it is U.S. policy not to discuss basing arrangements.
However, she indicated that the Bush administration has reason to believe the Saudis will do as much as they can to support the United States. "We are confident they will be an important ally going forward," she said, according to AP.
Other officials said Saturday on condition of anonymity that the Saudis have given private assurances that U.S. support aircraft, such as cargo, surveillance and refueling planes, could operate from Saudi bases.
These officials said the Saudis also are willing to allow the United States to coordinate and direct an air campaign against Iraq from the Combined Air Operations Center, a state-of-the-art command center at Prince Sultan Air Base, south of Riyadh. (Albawaba.com)