President Bush's top military deputies arrived in Saudi Arabia Wednesday to discuss plans for a possible war with Iraq, but they concede some ground forces won't be ready to fight by the deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were greeted in the Saudi capital by U.S. Ambassador Charles Freeman, Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, and Saudi Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, commander of the joint Arab forces.After a brief arrival ceremony, Cheney and Powell were whisked to the Saudi Ministry of Defense to begin three days of strategy sessions. The two also plan pre-Christmas visits with U.S. troops in the region before returning home.

Cheney and Powell, speaking with reporters traveling with them, said the United States will be ready to go to war by the Jan. 15 United Nations deadline regardless of whether all reinforcements have arrived in the region and reached combat readiness.

They refused to give specifics of the plans they were to discuss with Schwarzkopf, saying they did not want to tip their hand to Saddam.

"We have an offensive capability should that be required," Cheney said. "Most of the forces will be there by then, but obviously there is additional work to be done before you would identify them as combat-ready."

The visit is Cheney and Powell's third to Saudi Arabia since Iraq's Aug. 2 conquest of oil-rich Kuwait, but it is their first joint visit and first opportunity to meet together with Schwarzkopf since he moved his Middle East command post from Florida to Riyadh in September.

Neither plans to return to Saudi Arabia before the Jan. 15 deadline.

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Some 700 Utahns from the Army Reserve's 328th General Hospital have left Fort Carson, Colo., for duty in Germany. The group, called to active duty Dec. 6, was too large to travel together, so chartered commercial jets began ferrying the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff on several flights that left Fort Carson Monday and Tuesday.

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3 S.L. hospitals carry the load

Three Salt Lake medical facilities - Veterans, University and LDS hospitals - lost the most Utah reservists to Operation Desert Shield, according to a poll taken by the Utah Hospital Association.

Call-ups sent 374 Utah personnel to assignments in Germany and Saudi Arabia. According to the association poll:

- Veterans Administration Hospital lost four doctors, 27 nurses and 25 other employees.

- University Hospital lost two administrators, 12 staff doctors and six other employees.

- LDS Hospital lost eight doctors, 35 nurses and 10 other employees.

"While it would appear that the temporary loss of more than 300 medical personnel would be significant, fortunately most have come from urban facilities where replacements or resources can compensate," said Dr. Bruce P. Murray, association vice president. "Only six medical staff, 14 nurses and one ancillary person came from rural Utah communities. In those communities, the effect will be very noticeable and inconvenient."

Estimates say about 11 percent of Utah's 14,000 reservists - or 1,600 reservists - will participate in Operation Desert Shield.