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[casi] BBC: Baghdad protesters denounce 'occupation'

The latest from the BBC. Note the scare quotes around the word 'occupation'!

Best wishes,

voices uk

Baghdad protesters denounce 'occupation'
BBC On-line, April 18th 2003

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Baghdad after Friday
prayers, to protest against what they see as a foreign occupation of their
The marchers carried flags and banners saying "No to occupation" and
demanding that the unity of Iraq be preserved.

The BBC's Christian Fraser, who is at the scene, says it is the biggest
demonstration of Arab nationalism since the end of the war, and shows what
powerful sentiments the US-led invasion of Iraq has stirred up.

It came as foreign ministers from the countries neighbouring Iraq held talks
in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to discuss how to influence the post-war
situation in the region.

US Central Command in Qatar announced that Iraqi Kurds near Mosul had handed
Samir al-Aziz al-Najem, one of the top 55 most wanted leaders of Saddam
Hussein's regime, over to coalition forces.


The protesters were led by a respected and well-known Sunni Muslim scholar,
Ahmed al-Kubaisi.

He is reported to have used his sermon to denounce the American-led
invasion, whose purpose, he said, was to defend Israel.
Our correspondent says there was a tense confrontation earlier when an
American patrol stumbled into a crowd kneeling outside a mosque.

He says the worshippers surged forward angrily, but the US commander
skilfully withdrew his troops and defused the situation.

The troops had entered the area of the mosque to distribute humanitarian

It was the first full Friday prayers since Baghdad fell to US-led forces
last week.

Future relations

The talks in Riyadh - the first such meeting since the start of the war -
are to address the reconstruction of Iraq and the issue of how to deal with
a future US-led administration in Baghdad.

Egypt and Iran have already said they would not recognise such a government.

Officials say the ministers may decide to issue a public declaration of
support for Syria, which the US has accused of harbouring fugitive members
of Saddam Hussein's regime and of developing chemical weapons.

It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere,
hoping you find something
Donald Rumsfeld
The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says the Riyadh meeting will give Iraq's wary
neighbours the chance to assess each other's intentions.
Our correspondent says all the countries represented - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,
Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain - want a united Iraq, not one
divided into Kurdish, Sunni or Shia areas.

The meeting is also likely to address future political relations with Iraq's
interim administration and the question of how to minimise the length of
occupation by coalition forces.

Hunt for weapons

As decisions are made about who will run Iraq in the interim, US President
George W Bush has urged the UN to lift its economic sanctions against Iraq,
freeing up sales of its oil.

But diplomats who for many years have called for an end to the sanctions,
which were imposed in 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, are now
calling for a delay.

They say the restrictions should remain until the UN certifies that Iraq is
free of weapons of mass destruction.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he does not believe they will
be found unless Iraqis knowledgeable about the arms programmes reveal their

"It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking
everywhere, hoping you find something.

"I think what will happen is we'll discover people who will tell us where to
go find it," he said.

The United Nations' chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has told the BBC his
teams could play a key role in the search.

He said that, although no such weapons had yet been found, it was too early
to say whether Iraq was free of them.

"I think that the world would like to have a credible report on the absence
or eradication of the programme of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

The Pentagon is planning to send a 1,000-strong force to Iraq to help
coalition forces in the search, according to CNN.

It says the force will be made up of military personnel, government
intelligence analysts and civilian experts.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/04/18 12:57:20


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