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#1 - JRL 7029
Russia military see US Iraq attack in Feb -report

MOSCOW, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Russia's armed forces have obtained information that the United States and its allies have already decided to launch military action in Iraq from mid-February, news agency Interfax said on Wednesday.

The agency's specialist military news wire AVN, quoting an unnamed high-ranking source in the Russian general staff, said U.S.-led operations would be launched once an attacking force of 150,000 had been assembled in the Gulf.

"According to the information we have, the operation is planned for the second half of February. The decision to launch it has been taken but not yet been made public," the source told the agency, which has generally authoritative contacts in the Russian military and political establishment.

The source added that the main aim of the war would be to secure control of Iraqi oilfields.

It was not indicated by what means the Russian military had obtained such information -- it was not clear if it had been acquired covertly by Russian intelligence services or by a direct tip-off from Washington, which would be keen to avoid any misunderstandings with Moscow if it does launch a war.

The United States says it is building up a force estimated to reach more than 150,000 by the end of next month. Britain is sending a further 30,000 troops. No other allies have come forward with significant military commitments so far and some, notably France, Germany and Russia are against rapid action.

"The military operation against Iraq will be conducted by a combination of means -- strikes will be from the air, land and sea. The war will be short, lasting about one month," the Russian source was quoted as saying.

The source added that the main aim of the operation was not so much to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but to secure U.S. control over Iraqi oilfields.

"Hussein is the pretext. The real aim of the military action is control over Iraqi oil," he said.

Russia, together with France which is also a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, are cautioning against U.S action in Iraq now while U.N. arms inspectors are continuing to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction there.

Russia has a major commercial interest in Iraqi oil and has made clear its eagerness to exploit Iraq's huge reserves once U.N. sanctions on Saddam are lifted.

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