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Posted by Alli ( on January 23, 2002 at 14:55:25:

WIRE: 01/23/2002 11:24 am ET

Germany begins deploying chemical warfare troops to Arabian peninsula for exercise

The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) Germany began deploying troops specialized in combating chemical, biological and nuclear warfare to the Arabian peninsula Wednesday for a multinational exercise linked to the U.S. campaign against terrorism, the Defense Ministry said.

The 250-strong contingent began loading equipment, including 70 vehicles, onto a ship in the northern port of Cuxhaven. Fifty soldiers are to leave for the region over the weekend, with the remainder to fly out at the beginning of February.

Interior Minister Rudolf Scharping refused Tuesday to specify where next month's exercise would take place or which other countries would take part, besides the United States.

As for the location of the exercise, the ministry would say only that "further negotiations are necessary in this regard." German television reported this month that the troops would go to Kuwait.

Scharping said the exercise was "preparation for protection in a situation which isn't foreseen but can't be ruled out where a population could be threatened" with chemical or biological weapons.

Most of the contingent are to return to Germany by early March, though the equipment will be left behind so the force can respond quickly to any threat.

Scharping has been intent on countering speculation that Iraq, which neighbors Kuwait, could be targeted in the U.S.-led campaign. He insisted this months there are "no indications" of a forthcoming military strike against Iraq.

Germany has pledged up to 3,900 troops for the anti-terror campaign, including as many as 800 soldiers from a force with armored vehicles equipped to detect minute traces of chemical and nuclear agents in war zones.

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