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January 25, 2003 Saturday Final Edition SECTION: News; Linda Slobodian in Iraq; Pg. A8 LENGTH: 975 words HEADLINE: Activists search for signs of hope SOURCE: Calgary Herald BYLINE: Linda Slobodian DATELINE: BAGHDAD BODY: Peace activists are flocking here from across the globe to find ways of preventing what the former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq says will be a "war of cowards" destined to add a catastrophic human toll to the woes afflicting an already crippled nation. "How much higher can you go on a scale of suffering? Many households have lost members, through sanctions or through war. This war will mean more civilian casualties. It's not going to be a desert warfare. This will be an urban warfare -- very different technologies from the Gulf War," said Hans Sponeck on Friday. "I call it the war of cowards. You fly high, you push a button, you don't see a victim. When you detect that movement has come to a standstill on the ground, then you move in with ground troops. "You will still find resistance, then you will have U.S. casualties, more than you have in open-desert warfare." Germany's Sponeck, now a special representative for the Centre of Economic and Social Rights in New York, is in Iraq to meet with high-level government officials as part of a multinational peace group comprising representatives from Australia, South Africa, the United States and Germany. "We are trying to negotiate with the Iraqi government what they have to offer to show that Iraq is ready to open a new chapter," he said. "There are all kinds of answers that the international community wants to have with regards to Iraq having friendly relations with its neighbours, the disarmament process going beyond (UN) Resolution 1441, and the status of minorities -- for example, the Kurds in tomorrow's Iraq." There are no ready answers from the Iraqi government. Then there is the whole question of Iraq's participation or otherwise in international terrorism, he said. "In the Middle East the word terrorism is not a word they readily accept. What may in the West be accepted as a sign of terrorism, may in the Middle East be more appropriately referred to as a fight for freedom. We don't know where Iraq stands," he said. "At the same time it is very clear the Iraqi government has stated they are not associating themselves in any form with the kind of terrorism that was used against U.S. installations and internal U.S. facilities like the World Trade Center. They want to disassociate themselves from that," said Sponeck. Considering the massive buildup of U.S. and British troops in the Gulf region, he acknowledged the pressure is intense to work quickly to convince the Iraqi government to clearly demonstrate it is willing to co-operate. "The military vehicle is driving at a speed that is difficult to stop. There isn't a lot of time but there is still an opportunity to halt this fast-moving vehicle and find an exit from war. "With the mounting resistance to this madness I think the Americans are becoming increasingly aware that they are catapulting themselves into a tremendous isolation," he said. A number of politicians are already in Iraq, or are on their way, on similar missions to that of Sponeck, including MP Colleen Beaumier, Brampton West-Mississauga. "Right now in town there is a Canadian MP, an Irish MP, and there are 37 members of the European Parliament. There have been many members from several countries. But I think it's high time some of our leading figures pack their bags and travel here," said Sponeck. Beaumier, a Liberal backbencher, has briefly met with Transportation Minister Ahmad H. Ahmad and Basil Dalaly, first under-secretary to the minister of agriculture. She is scheduled to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and and Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. "I've come to Iraq to assure the Iraqi people that the majority of Canadians don't want a war," said Beaumier, who personally financed her trip to Iraq. "I'm also hoping to be the conduit for the messages from Canada to the Iraqis and from the Iraqi government back to our prime minister and foreign affairs minister," she said. Beaumier, however, has no meeting slated with Prime Minister Jean Chretien upon her arrival back in Canada next Monday. "In a perfect world I would go home and the prime minister would call me. However, it's not a perfect world or a perfect system so I will be knocking on his door four or five times a week," said the MP. "Did the prime minister ask me to say anything on his behalf? No. However, I think I can speak on behalf of my constituents who do not want to participate in an unprovoked war against children. About half the population of 23 million -- 46 per cent -- are under 16. Which baby do you want to get first?" asked Beaumier. "To think we could even think about attacking the Iraqis, who look at you with no hatred in their eyes, is beyond my comprehension." Life goes on as best it can on the streets of Baghdad -- but the mood of the people is sombre. Most shops were closed this holiday Friday but street vendors as usual peddled pop, cigarettes and assorted goods. Between transactions, newspaper peddler Abdullah Habtoma simply shrugged when asked what he thinks about a pending U.S. attack. Are people afraid? "I don't know," he said without conviction. Sponeck said the Iraqis are a resilient people trying to put a brave face on things. "You ask people and very often get a quick answer, 'We are not worried.' (But) my friends, people with whom I've worked here, are deeply worried. They are fearful. There is mental agony in families," he said. Sponeck attacked what he called the "scandalous misinformation" campaign launched in the U.S. "For example, the documentation the U.S. just put out about the implementation of the Oil For Food program . . . "The Americans are getting desperate. One cannot defend a dictatorship. But when there is a dishonest portrayal of what insiders like me know better (about), then we must speak out against that." GRAPHIC: Photo: Hilary Mackenzie, Calgary Herald; Dr. Samantha Nutt, visiting from Toronto, talks to a patient in a pediatrics hospital in the Iraqi town of Karbala. LOAD-DATE: January 26, 2003 ________________________________ Jacob Park Center for Economic and Social Rights Emergency Campaign on Iraq http://www.cesr.org/iraq 162 Montague St., 2nd Floor Brooklyn, NY 11210 firstname.lastname@example.org ________________________________ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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