Iraqis voice anger to inspectors as invasion nears

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sun Jan 5 06:58:59 MST 2003

Armed Iraqis show defiance to UN team
(Filed: 05/01/2003)

Neil Connery finds the people in an angry mood as he travels with the arms
inspectors on their first trip from Baghdad into Saddam's heartlands

United Nations weapons inspectors received an unexpected taste of Iraqi
belligerence yesterday as they set up their first base outside Baghdad in
the latest phase of their mission.

We accompanied a convoy of 14 inspectors and their back-up staff on the
four-hour drive from Baghdad to Mosul in northern Iraq, passing Saddam
Hussein's home city of Tikrit and then through the town of Ba'igi. The
streets there were lined with more than 200 armed men of all ages in
civilian and army clothes. It was a well-organised act of defiance in full
view of the inspectors and media in Saddam's backyard.

The men waved their weapons above their heads and called at us to film them.
"We are showing the world we will defend our homes," shouted one armed man
from the balcony of the town's Ba'ath Party headquarters.

Even as the UN team extended its search for Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction, America and Britain have been intensifying their preparations
for war. President George W. Bush told cheering soldiers in Texas on Friday
that a war against Iraq would be one of liberation, not conquest.

The Pentagon has ordered units of the United States 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force, which will play a key role in any invasion, to the Gulf as the latest
part of the build-up. More than 11,000 desert-trained army troops from the
3rd Infantry Division are also preparing to head to the region.

British defence chiefs will begin the mobilisation this week of up to 20,000
soldiers from the three Services for operations in Iraq. US and British
forces are expected to be ready to launch an invasion soon after Hans Blix,
the UN's chief weapons inspector, presents his first detailed assessment to
the Security Council on January 27.

His teams, which yesterday conducted their 36th day of inspections, now have
the use of six helicopters to ferry them around and conduct aerial surveys.
Driving north out of Baghdad yesterday they stopped to inspect Al-Khalis
distillery, where arak is made for the local market. They are also working
their way through a list of 500 names of Iraqi scientists handed over last

Iraq is co-operating publicly but, as the January 27 deadline approaches,
the tone is becoming strained. The manager of one site inspected said the UN
team had "behaved like gangsters", while Gen Hussan Mohammed Amin, the Iraqi
official in charge of relations with the Blix mission, also expressed his
frustration: "When you come into my house you say, 'Hello, please may I go
here?' But when you go directly into it and start running about the site,
that is unacceptable."

In his latest broadside at Washington, Naji Sabri, Baghdad's foreign
minister, complained to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, that the US
was violating international law by supporting mercenaries against Iraq, the
official daily Al-Iraq reported.

On the streets of Baghdad the talk, inevitably, is of war. Inside the
Al-Shabander coffee shop writers and artists exchanged news and gossip.
Twenty-six-year-old Haider Wady is a sculptor and artist. Over a glass of
Iraqi tea he explained why he is fearful of what war will mean.

"My life over the past few years has been getting better. With internet
connections I'm able to get my work shown in exhibitions abroad. But we are
all worried about war and what may come next. Will there be electricity?
Will there be water? We just don't know," he said. "The weapons inspectors
search every day and have found nothing, so why does America want to bomb?
They can bomb and damage the buildings but they can't damage the spirit of
the Iraqi people."

Turkey, a strategic US ally in Nato and home to key airbases, continued to
voice opposition to war with Iraq as Abdullah Gul, the new prime minister,
began a Middle East tour aimed at reaching a peaceful solution.

Neil Connery is an ITV News correspondent

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