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GULF WATCH: Day 144 : A daily briefing paper on developments in the crisis : Military Front:

Crew members of the U.S. aircraft carrier Saratoga bid farewell to their 21 drowned comrades in a memorial service. About 1,200 attended the shipboard ceremony for those who died when their ferry capsized Saturday en route to the Saratoga from shore leave in Haifa, Israel. Twenty bodies have been recovered; the 21st was still being sought.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said that a number of nations in the 28-member force arrayed against Iraq would not fight to drive Iraq from Kuwait. He declined to name the countries, but he pointedly refused to include France and Syria among the stalwart supporters of U.S. policy.

Diplomatic Front:

Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf met to iron out differences over how tough a line to take with Baghdad. Some of the six Gulf Cooperation Council leaders said peace should be given more time before implementing the U.N. resolution authorizing use of force after Jan. 15.

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Kuwaiti leaders reportedly refused to talk with Iraq until it has withdrawn from Kuwait, but some other nations wanted to discuss giving Iraq use of two Kuwaiti islands.

Domestic Front:

Senate Democratic leader George J. Mitchell predicted that Congress would deny President Bush “blank-check authorization” to attack Iraq after Jan. 15. Mitchell said Congress must consider the ramifications of using force, saying, for example, that if Iraq countered U.S. force by attacking Israel, Syria would likely switch sides to join Iraq.

Deaths of U.S. military personnel in Operation Desert Shield:

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* Sailors from carrier Saratoga drowned: 21

* Other deaths in Desert Shield: 57

* Total: 78


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