- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 29 (UPI) — Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf said Saturday efforts were growing to try President George W. Bush as a war criminal before an international criminal court. The Iraqi minister said "there are law professors from Latin America, the Arab region and Europe" joining the effort.

During his daily press briefing, the Iraqi Information Minister said a total of 140 Iraqis were killed and 351 others injured by coalition airstrikes on the country in less than 24 hours. He also accused British forces of bombarding food warehouses in Basra while a number of coalition reconnaissance planes were shot down.

Al-Sahhaf said 68 people "were martyred (killed) only in Baghdad since last night's bombing, and 107 injured."

He added 28 were killed and 48 others wounded in Anbar, three dead and 22 injured in Babel, six dead and 52 wounded in Karbala and 35 killed and 122 others wounded in Najaf.

The minister said U.S. forces targeted an ambulance carrying a wounded man in Najaf, killing the patient, the driver and a medical assistant.

"Congratulations to the villains. They now started hitting ambulances," he commented, adding the overnight shelling also hit the Iraqi Information Ministry in Baghdad where workers immediately started to repair the damage.

Coalition forces have repeatedly said they do not target civilians. Military spokesmen at coalition headquarters in Qatar said they would "investigate" reports that a strike in a crowded street in Baghdad that killed about 50 people was said by Iraqi officials to be an American missile.

Al-Sahhaf also accused British forces of bombarding food depots in the southern city of Basra where more than 75,000 tons of food and other essential stuffs, including milk, sugar, cooking oil, tea and detergents, were destroyed. He said such a shelling was "a dangerous turn" in the war.

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh also denounced the British bombardment of food warehouses in Basra and said: "After their failure to achieve their military targets, they started to hit civilian areas, kill innocents and burn citizens' food."

"This is the dirty war that the U.S. and Britain are leading and which expresses their moral defeat," Saleh said.

He dismissed reports saying that the U.S.-British forces were planning to delay their advance towards Baghdad for a few days, describing them as "deception tactics."

He referred to battles with "U.S. mercenaries who were dropped close to the al-Anbar province" on the border with Jordan and Syria, as well as in the border area of Ana and the province of Ramadi where Saddam Fedayeen shot down a drone.

He said more of these planes were also downed near Hammniya and Baakouba close to the border with Iran and that Iraqi cameramen were dispatched to film the wreckage

Al-Sahhaf affirmed that Iraqis were fighting behind coalition lines and "we are killing and taking prisoners many of them and they (coalition forces) will keep on denying but this will change nothing of the truth."

On Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comments Friday accusing Syria of sending weapons to Iraq, the Iraqi minister said these claims were "completely baseless, and is part of blackmailing the international community. But these efforts will fail."

Rumsfeld accused Syria on Friday of supplying military equipment, including nigh-vision goggles to the Iraqis, a moves he claimed were "hostile acts." Syria rejected Rumsfeld's accusations as an attempt to cover their "failures" in Iraq.


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