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[casi] Belgium says it shunned Iraqi opposition meeting to focus on inspections

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Hello all,
Sometimes you can agree to decisions your government makes. I congratulate our Prime Minister Louis 
Michel on his decision to refuse to allow Iraqi opposition groups to meet in Brussels.
Dirk Adriaensens.

Belgium says it shunned Iraqi opposition meeting to focus on inspections

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The effort to ensure Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction should not be 
confused with any campaign to oust Saddam Hussein, Belgium said Monday, offering its first official 
explanation why it refused to allow Iraqi opposition groups to meet there

The United States has repeatedly urged the groups to forge a united front and to develop plans for 
governing their nation if Saddam is overthrown.

But Foreign Minister Louis Michel said such a meeting would have put Belgium in an awkward 
position, noting the new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections doesn't say there should be an end 
to Saddam's rule.

"The resolution does not speak about regime change. The resolution speaks about weapons," Michel 

"We should all make intensive efforts in order to convince the Iraqi authorities to accept the 
resolution and to grasp this last chance in order to prevent any violent action," Michel added.

Six exiled opposition groups had planned to meet under U.S. auspices in Belgium this month to 
discuss their possible role in toppling Saddam.

But last week, the organizers announced the conference was being moved from Brussels to Britain 
because of "a negative response" from Belgium. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 10-11.

Michel said Belgium was also concerned the meeting would not have included representatives from all 
Iraqi opposition factions.

The Iraqi opposition is deeply split along sectarian, ethnic, clan and political lines. The 
rivalries have grown more intense with the prospect of a U.S.-led war to oust Saddam.

The six groups planning to meet are the Constitutional Monarchist Movement, led by a first cousin 
of the last Iraqi king; the Iraqi National Accord; the Iraqi National Congress; the Kurdistan 
Democratic Party; the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution 
in Iraq, a Shiite group.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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