Baghdad: Saddam Hussein questioned the rationality of an US military strike and said at the start of Eid al-Fitr the United States has no reason to attack Iraq.
``They don't have any national interest or any justification to come thousands of miles to attack us,'' Iraq's president said in comments carried by the Iraqi News Agency at the start of the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But he added: ``If evil pushes our evil enemies to do evil deeds and if the aggressors commit an aggression on us, they will find the sons of our nation ... carrying out their national duties in a manner that will be a subject of admiration,'' he said.
He was met by members of the ruling Baath Party, the Revolutionary Command Council and his Cabinet, the agency said. ``Our people have a faith that will not be shaken,'' he said.
Earlier today, Iraqis flocked to cemeteries in Baghdad to mourn their dead while state-run newspapers told them fighting the United States was part of their national duty.
The remarks came as Iraqis celebrated the first day of the Muslim feast. Families in Baghdad started the festivities by paying homage to their dead. Hundreds of them flocked to al-Karkh cemetery. Some wept and wailed, and many chanted verses from the Koran, Islam's holy book.
Ibrahim Hussein al-Falahi, a 60-year-old retired farmer, went to mourn his wife and four children killed during an American bombing in February 1991 during the Gulf War. He pleaded that another air strike should not happen. ``We are civilized people and educated, and we have a dialogue in which we can convince the other side, if the other side will listen,'' he said. He said an air strike ``will lead to a loss of children and innocent people who may be killed by mistake. ... That is what I want to say to America and its allies.''
Iraq's deputy prime minister has taken foreign diplomats on a tour of one of Presidential palaces, which are at the heart of the dispute between Iraq and U.N. weapons inspectors, the Iraqi News Agency reported Friday. Diplomats have invited them to lunch for the next four days in some of the "presidential sites" at the centre of a row with the United Nations over arms inspections.
The lunches are to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the month of Ramadan, when Moslems fast during daylight hours. The tour of the palace 65 miles north of Baghdad which overlooks the man-made lake of al-Tharthar. It is close to Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and was among the palaces that inspectors had wanted permission to visit.
Mahathir warns on financial colonialists
Kuala Lumpur: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday appealed to Malaysians to join arms financial neocolialists who he said were trying to capitalise on the nation's economic plight to recolonise the country.
``We must realize the great danger facing our country. If we are not careful, we will be recolonised,'' Mahathir Mohamad said in a speech broadcast on state radio and television to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadanand the start of Eid al-Fitr festival, celebrated by more than half of the country's 21 million people.
Mahathir said Malaysia is a democratically elected government ``where we respect'' all voices. However, that does not mean that Malaysians to prove their democratic credentials to the West -- should stoop ``to the extent of being recolonized by foreigners.''
``We are a democratic country where we respect the voice of the majority while the minority too is free to express its views. The Malaysian government is elected by the people and given the mandate to govern until another election,'' he said on Thursday. ``The democratic practice is for our own good and we should not become victims just to show how democratic we are to the extent of being recolonialised by foreigners.''
Malaysia, which gained independence from Britain in 1957, has lost billions of dollars from its financial system since the start of the Asian financial crisis six months ago. The ringgit has lost 45 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar while stocks have tumbled by about 50 percent, putting an abrupt end to nearly a decade of high economic growth.
Mahathir said that Malaysia was in great danger from international financiers who he said had their own agenda for the country. ``They feel that they are responsible for disciplining elected governments in other countries. If these governments do not follow their biddings, various financial and economic pressures are imposed on such governments and their peoples,'' Mahathir said.
At the outset of the financial crisis, Mahathir aimed his criticism
at currency traders of conspiring to bring down the ringgit and stock
prices. He has spearheaded a drive to keep money in Malaysia's banking
system and promote purchases of local goods; moves that would reduce the
use of foreign exchange and could boost the value of the ringgit against
the U.S. dollar.
Vietnamese celebrate Tet 1968
Vietnam: Today in Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City in April 1975, the Vietnamese celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tet Offensive. Large red and gold banners of matyrts adorn street corners as shoppers bustle to buy Tet gifts and stock up for this new year holiday.
This year, the local people's committee made plans to welcome Tet with a cacophony of noise at the stroke of midnight from synchronised drumming and bell-ringing instead of crude firecrackers heralding the new lunar year.
On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968 in the Tet Offensive the NLF attacked more than 100 targets leaving 1,113 Americans and at least 3,470 South Vietnamese dead and which graphic US television footage and newspaper photos forever changed America's view of the Vietnam War.
Americans saw images of NLF guerrillas breaching the U.S. Embassy compound
in Saigon and two Marines dragging a wounded and bloodied buddy from fighting
in Hue.The offensive convinced Americans that the North Vietnamese had
widespread support in the south and that the war was unwinnable. Within
weeks, Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson told the nation he would not
run for reelection.
And perhaps most searingly, they saw the street corner execution of
a communist rebel by South Vietnam's Chief of National Police.
"We knew if we attacked at this time it would be a tremendous shock,
so we took advantage of Tet," said Lt. Gen. Tran Van Quang, the commander
of North Vietnam's forces near Hue and the central provinces.
UN prepares to leave Iraq
United Nations: The United Nations is drawing up evacuation contingency plans for its estimated 450 staff in case of a military strike by the United States, U.N. sources said on Friday despite mediation efforts by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Asked if he felt Western air strikes against Iraq were imminent Annan said: ``I hope that we would be able to use diplomatic and other means to resolve this issue and we don't have to resort to that.'' But at UN headquarters in New York other officials were more pessimistic,``We have the situation under close review but we do not discuss security matters in public,'' U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said. Of the 450 U.N. staff in Iraq, 120 people work for the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) .
Despite the crisis Annan continued to work on the Security Council improvements for Baghdad in its oil-for-food deal. ``I will be putting a report before the Security Council which will be designed to improve the conditions of the Iraqi people. If you are going to do that, you sell oil to be able to buy food and medicine. The report will lead to improvements in the situation,'' he said.arriving to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum..
Annan declined to mention any figures before his report is presented
to the Security Council and did not say when the report would be submitted.
``I would advise everybody to wait for the report,'' he said.
Richard Butler, chairman of UNSCOM, has already said he expected to withdraw his staff in case of an attack. At the same time, UNSCOM has arranged for two technical teams, one on warheads and another on chemical arms, to go to Baghdad for discussions most of next week.
Some 320 U.N. staff are involved in monitoring the so-called ``oil-for-food'' program, which allows Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil in order to purchase supplies to ease the impact of seven-year old trade sanctions. Of this group 150 staff are in the northern Kurdish areas -- not completely under Baghdad's control -- and are not expected to be withdrawn, the U.N. sources said. In addition, families of U.N. staff members have been allowed to join them in Iraq and 50 are currently there.
In apparent anticipation of a possible evacuation, Iraq has told all U.N. personnel living in private housing in Baghdad to move into eight designated hotels by this weekend, U.N. officials said. No immediate explanation was given. Among those who have to move is Denis Halliday, the coordinator of the oil-for-food program.
Washington has made clear that it is prepared, with or without international backing, to unleash an attack from the force of 30 ships and 300 warplanes it has assembled in the Gulf if Iraq does not allow the inspectors access.
U.N. officials said a team of 18, including support staff, led by Nikita Smidovich of Russia, would travel to Baghdad on Sunday for a talks on missile warheads. The group includes representatives from the five permanent members of Germany and the five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
The following day another TEM team of 19, led by Horst Reeps of Germany, will arrive for several days of talks on the chemical weapons
Washington: President Clinton Clinton said in the latest round of saber rattling would keep weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq's hands.
Clinton, speaking to the top U.S. military commanders from around the world and students at the National Defense University, repeated the message to Iraq,"We are determined to deny him the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction again," he delivered in his State of the Union speech Tuesday as well as giving his general views on when the use of force was appropriate.
Washington has made clear that it is prepared, with or without international backing, to unleash an attack from the force of 30 ships and 300 warplanes it has assembled in the Gulf if Saddam does not relent.
"We struck Iraq's intelligence headquarters after its agents plotted to murder President Bush. We convinced Saddam to pull back his troops from Kuwait's border in 1994. We tightened the strategic straitjacket on him by extending the no-fly zone when he attacked the Kurds in 1996," Clinton said.
Speaking generally, he made clear that force lay in reserve behind America's diplomatic efforts. "Diplomacy and force are two sides of the same coin. Our diplomacy is effective precisely because it is backed by the finest military in the world," he said.
"As president, the hardest decision I ever have to make is to put our troops in harm's way. Force can never be the first answer. But sometimes, still, it is the only answer," Clinton said. "We must and we will always do everything we can to protect our forces. ... But we must be strong and tough and mature as a nation, strong and tough and mature enough to recognize that even the best-prepared, best-equipped force will suffer losses in action," he said.
Clinton spoke after meeting with the nation's top military leaders for a semiannual review of key defense and security issues around the world. Among those briefing the president were Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who is responsible for the Gulf region as head of the U.S. Central Command. He gave Clinton an update on developments concerning Iraq.
Separately, a U.S. official said Clinton's team of top national security advisers had stepped up their schedule of White House meetings to coordinate the U.S. response to the crisis and had met this week every day until Thursday.
In Congress, lawmakers were considering the exact wording of a bipartisan
resolution that would condemn Iraq's refusal to end its programs for weapons
of mass destruction and essentially authorize the use of military force
in response to this threat. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott said he
hoped agreement could be reached to vote on the resolution Tuesday. The
House is expected to consider it next week.
Old plots against Castro revealed
Washington: Newly declassified records show that the Pentagon had wild schemes in 1963 to provoke Fidel Castro so that retaliating U.S. forces could squash him ``with speed,force and determination,'' .
The documents showed that in February 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Defense Secretary Roswell Gilpatric approved a plan to ``lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate, into an overt hostile reaction against the United States.'' The attack ``would in turn create the justification for the U.S. to not only retaliate but destroy Castro with speed, force and determination,'' the memo said.It was not clear where along the chain of command the plan eventually was aborted.
But by the following year, another Pentagon policy paper discussed a new scheme to make it appear that Cuba had attacked a member of the Organization of American States so that the United States could retaliate. Five scenarios were spelled out, foreseeing either real or faked Cuban attacks on a U.S. ally were among 600 pages opened at the National Archives by a government agency, the Assassination Records Review Board,
One of them: ``A contrived 'Cuban' attack on an OAS member could be set up, and the attacked state could be urged to take measures of self-defense and request assistance from the U.S. and OAS.'' The paper expressed confidence that ``the U.S. could almost certainly obtain the necessary two-thirds support among OAS members for collective action against Cuba.''
The planners got cold feet, the documents show. They feared leaks. ``Any of the contrived situations described above are inherently, extremely risky in our democratic system in which security can be maintained, after the fact, with very great difficulty,'' a memo said. ``If the decision should be made to set up a contrived situation, it should be one in which participation by U.S. personnel is limited only to the most high trusted covert personnel.''
The documents were the second set about Washington's preoccupation with getting rid of Castro to be made public by the board. Late last year, 1,500 pages showed that military planners had come up with a variety of dirty tricks intended to harass or humiliate Castro. One prescribed flooding Cuba with faked photos of an overweight Castro ``with two beauties'' and ``a table brimming over with the most delectable Cuban food'' to make the point that Castro's lifestyle was richer than that of most Cubans.
In the new set of papers, one prepared by the Defense Department's Caribbean Survey Group and dated Feb. 19, 1962, wanted to make Castro so fearful of an imminent U.S. attack that he would call up the Cuban militia. The purpose was ``a complete disruption of the available labor force'' for the 1962 sugar cane harvest.
Another, a psychological warfare proposal dated Feb. 12, 1963, proposed the creation of an imaginary Cuban resistance leader. ``After a period of time, all unexplained incidents and actions for which credit has not been seized by some other exile group would automatically be ascribed to our imaginary friend,'' the paper said. ``At some point in time it could be leaked that the U.S. is, in fact, supporting this imaginary person.'' Eventually, the paper speculated, ``a member of the resistance in Cuba may gain sufficient stature to assume or to be given the title of this imaginary leader.''
The Pentagon documents were written after the disastrous April 1961 invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs by Cuban exiles trained, armed and directed by the United States.