The commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf war described the Iraqi army as "on the verge of collapse" and said it would probably use chemical weapons in a ground war, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Iraq's military is hurting and hurting very badly. Our assessment of them is that they are on the verge of collapse," Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.In Saudi Arabia Wednesday, senior military officials were asked about the news report. One, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Schwarzkopf had "caveated" his remarks by saying the Iraqis remained formidable and he "would not take the enemy force for granted."

"We haven't seen any white flags yet . . . there's still a formidable force out there," one senior officer said.