Syrian Troops Bolster Forces in Saudi Arabia

From Times Wire Services

Syrian troops arrived in Saudi Arabia today and a second Iraqi ship was kept out of a Persian Gulf port as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's adversaries tightened their economic and military vise.

In Egypt, officials said ships bound to or from Iraq will be allowed to use the Suez Canal. They said the 1888 Constantinople Convention permits denial of transit only to ships of a nation at war with Egypt.

A mine alert was posted for a central gulf channel where an Iraqi ship was seen Monday, but it was canceled later, shipping sources reported.

U.S. officials were watching a ship suspected of carrying Polish-made small arms destined for Iraq.

Diplomatic sources in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said the first Syrian units landed in the early morning to join American, British, Egyptian and other forces protecting the Arabian Peninsula and its vast oil reserves. The sources had no details of numbers or areas where the soldiers would be deployed.

President Hafez Assad of Syria is an old enemy of Hussein, his main foe in Arab ranks, and supported Iran in its eight-year war with Iraq.

Officials in Damascus, the Syrian capital, have been reluctant to discuss participation in the multinational force and would not confirm the Riyadh reports.

American GIs in Saudi Arabia today told Pentagon pool reporters that they are prepared for chemical arms attack from Iraq, which has used the weapons before and reportedly tried to buy nerve gas protection kits for its own troops just days before storming Kuwait.

The 82nd Airborne paratroopers said they were ready for anything Iraq could launch, including a gas warfare attack.

"We're trained for it," a paratrooper from Ann Arbor, Mich., said. "If it happens, we're ready for it."

The United States put missile-firing helicopters, tanks and anti-tank missiles into place in the desert today.

The Army's new Apache helicopters, equipped with Hellfire anti-armor missiles, have been sent to Saudi Arabia primarily to fight tanks if necessary, the Apache battalion's commander said.

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