U.S. airmen, surrounded by high-tech equipment, are keeping a wary watch on Buford the chicken to warn them of a chemical attack.

Like canaries used in 19th-century coal mines, Buford will drop dead before humans when poisonous gases start to reach a critical level."He's a very important bird. As long as Buford talks, we're in good shape," said Col. Bill van Meter, commander of the 4410th Operations Support Wing at an air base in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The base newspaper has been named "Buford Talks." Other live chickens are scattered around in boxes to back up gas monitoring equipment.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said Monday he would not rule out the use of unconventional weapons in the Gulf War, noting Scud missiles fired at Saudi Arabia and Israel could carry nuclear, chemical and bacteriological warheads.