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Bahrain Readies in Case of a War

February 4, 2003

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ With talk of a U.S.-led war against Iraq growing, Bahrain has set up a command center to direct emergency crews and rescue volunteers to any disaster site, a high-ranking civil defense official said Tuesday.

The National Emergency Command Center will begin operating within a few days and be fully operational by March 1, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Although work on the center began in mid-2002, it has been stepped up since December because of the prospect of a war against Iraq, the official said. A staff of 150 people will be able to deal with anything from a ``fracture to a plane crash or a biological or chemical attack.″

The center, a major extension to the tiny Gulf kingdom’s Civil Defense and Fire Services, will also have mobile command and control units.

About 20 warning sirens already are functional in the country, which is just over three times the size of Washington, D.C., to alert people of impending danger. Last month, Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based, announced it was deploying Patriot missile batteries to counter any long-range missile threats.

Iraq fired long-range Scuds at Bahrain twice during the 1991 Gulf war.

The United States and Britain, which accuse Iraq of hiding mass destruction weapons, are assembling the biggest ground, naval and air force in the Gulf since a U.S.-led coalition defeated Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

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