Iraq on Friday extended the deadline for amnesty offered to army deserters, while foes of Saddam Hussein said mustard gas and warplanes have been used to quell anti-government uprisings.

A Shiite Iraqi opposition figure, Jawad al-Maliki of the ad-Dawa party, on Friday accused Saddam of using mustard gas, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to crush uprisings.Meanwhile, Middle East Watch, a human rights advocate group based in New York, warned Friday of a possible massacre of Iraqi civilians by Saddam Hussein's loyal troops and of Kuwait's reprisal measures against Palestinians.

In other gulf-related developments:

- The United States may leave combat aircraft permanently based in Saudi Arabia or other Persian Gulf nations, the Air Force's top civilian official said Friday.

Donald Rice, the Air Force secretary, said no decisions had been made but that he believed a limited U.S. air presence "might make sense" as part of a new security arrangement for the gulf states.

- Dozens of Western journalists and technicians expelled on short-notice from Iraq arrived in Jordan on Friday in a convoy of vehicles.

The expulsion of the approximately 70 Westerners from Iraq coincided with Baghdad's acknowledgement it held 40 journalists and two American servicemen.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said authorities in Bagdhad had handed over the 40 journalists and two POWs, and they are expected to leave Iraq on Saturday.

- After a war in which American technology crippled a country but also killed 23 of its own troops, the Army has set up a special center to develop ways to eliminate such deadly "friendly fire."

- The Pentagon said Friday that Germany has told coalition forces it will send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf to help get rid of Iraqi mines in Kuwaiti waters. The United States asked Germany to provide the assistance.

- In a backhanded slap at Democrats, the White House on Friday said President Bush was showing "admirable restraint" by promising not to make a political issue out of the Persian Gulf war and lawmakers who opposed it.

"To the Democrats who want to try to speak out on this issue, I think there is a question to ask them, and that is: If we had lost this war and we had had 20,000 casualties, would they have withheld any criticism of us?" White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said.

- President Bush on Friday ordered that federal workers who left their jobs to serve in the Persian Gulf war be given five-day vacations and that other returning veterans be given priority for government jobs.

Bush also said that those who qualified for retirement from their civilian government jobs while in the gulf can retire without returning to work at their civilian jobs.