Saddam Hussein today replaced his aging defense minister with a battle hero and ordered building owners to install bomb shelters. But the Iraqi leader also met with an Arab emissary to discuss ways to avoid war.
Western analysts questioned why Hussein would change defense ministers now, and speculated that the move indicated opposition within the military to Hussein's refusal to leave Kuwait.
State radio said Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Jabar Shanshal, 70, was replaced by Maj. Gen. Saadi Toma Abbas, a hero of the 1980-88 war with Iran.
Abbas, who is in his 50s, is credited as the strategist behind the defense of the southern port city of Basra during that war.
The Iraqi announcement came as the evacuation of Western captives neared completion.
Twenty Irish nationals, three Canadians and two Italians flew from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, today, and Americans were heading home from London and Frankfurt, Germany.