- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations yesterday defended his country's aid to families of Palestinian suicide-bombers, saying the payments are an expression of Arab solidarity.
"Those are human beings without any resources. Those are our brothers who live in a very difficult situation," Mohammed A. Aldouri said in a television interview.
"This is our solidarity with our people in Palestine, so certainly we have to give them a hand to help them overcome their problems," he said.
Meanwhile, the mysterious death in Baghdad last week of the notorious Palestinian terrorist known as Abu Nidal revived suspicions about Iraq's role in international terrorism even as President Bush begins to make the case for military action to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The London Sunday Telegraph, in a report published today, said Abu Nidal was murdered by order of Saddam after resisting the dictator's pressure to train Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda fighters who fled to northern Iraq from Afghanistan.
Saddam, who has said suicide attacks are a "legitimate means" against Israel, has paid up to $25,000 to families of Palestinian suicide-bombers since the Israeli-Palestinian clashes began in September 2000. Saddam has said such attacks are acceptable when perpetrated "by a people whose land is being occupied."
His U.N. ambassador, Mr. Aldouri, was asked on CNN yesterday whether Iraq is encouraging more suicide-bombers by offering the bounties.
"We are not seeing it from this side. We are seeing only our solidarity with our people and Palestine, who are suffering, who need all kinds of help," the Iraqi ambassador replied in the interview on "Novak, Hunt & Shields."
More than two dozen anti-Israeli bombings have occurred during the 22-month Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has claimed more than 2,400 lives overall. The latest was the Aug. 4 bombing of a bus near the town of Safad, in northern Israel, which killed nine and wounding 50 others.
The United States has said repeatedly the Palestinians must end suicide-bombings if they are ever to return to the peace table with Israelis.
Mr. Aldouri maintained that Iraq seeks peace, not war, with the United States. He pledged that Baghdad would not attack Israel, even if the United States went to war with Iraq.
The ambassador said Iraq no longer has long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel, such as the Scud missiles Saddam repeatedly used to attack the Jewish state during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Some in Congress have warned that Baghdad would attack Israel, as it did in 1991, if the United States launches a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
Democrats and some Republicans worry that Saddam would retaliate by using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against U.S. troops as well as Israel.
But Mr. Aldouri said Iraq could not and would not attack Israel.
"I don't think we have a long-range Scud missile. We don't have that. I think we are obliged to have very short-range missiles," Mr. Aldouri said.
Asked if Iraq would use the missiles against Israel if attacked by the United States, he said: "We cannot reach Israel and we have no intention to do that."
Mr. Aldouri contended that Iraq's missiles can travel "only 150 kilometers," about 93 miles. Israel is 250 miles away.
Mr. Aldouri's remarks were far less volatile and defiant than those of Saddam, who warned two weeks ago that the United States and any other country that tried to attack Iraq would face "disgraceful" military defeat and so much death they would be forced to "carry their coffins on their backs."
When asked what Saddam meant by the latter statement, the Iraqi ambassador said: "What our president wanted to say is we will defend ourselves, we will defend our sovereignty, we will defend our people by all means we have that there will be death there will be a lot of atrocities we know the meaning of war. We don't want this war."
The Bush administration contemplates military action because it believes the Iraqi dictator is developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. sanctions imposed after the Gulf war. President Bush has called Saddam an "enemy" who is a threat both to his neighbors and to the world.
Although Mr. Aldouri said Baghdad would use all means at its disposal to resist a U.S. assault, he said Iraq's military capability was limited. He strongly denied it has nuclear weapons.
As for whether Iraq would allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to determine if it is complying with the U.N. ban on developing weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Aldouri placed conditions on any such return. He said there first needs to be a full discussion of what still has to be done to enable U.N. sanctions to be lifted.
A top Iraqi intelligence official told reporters last week that Abu Nidal, whose assumed name means "father of the struggle," entered Iraq illegally and plotted to kill Saddam. The Palestinian terror chief shot himself when Iraqi security agents went to his apartment to arrest him, the official said.
Iraqi dissidents abroad and members of Abu Nidal's group, Fatah-Revolutionary Council, disputed the Iraqi version.
They said the terrorist, whose real name was Sabri Banna, was killed by Iraqi intelligence agents because he refused to cooperate with Saddam on terror plans.
The London Sunday Telegraph, in its report today, said Abu Nidal, 65, was murdered on Saddam's orders after resisting the Iraqi dictator's request that he train al Qaeda fighters in Iraq. Saddam also wanted Abu Nidal to carry out attacks against the United States and its allies, the Telegraph reported, quoting unnamed Western diplomats.
The Telegraph quoted a U.S. official with access to intelligence on the death as saying: "There is no doubt that Abu Nidal was murdered on Saddam's orders. He paid the price for not cooperating with Saddam's wishes."
Iraqi opposition groups said Abu Nidal had been in Baghdad for months as Saddam's personal guest, and was being treated for a mild form of skin cancer.
U.S. officials last week revealed that some members of bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network had relocated to northern Iraq and linked up with Iraqi intelligence officials.
Facing the prospect of a U.S. military campaign to overthrow him, Saddam "was keen to combine Abu Nidal's expertise with the enthusiasm of al Qaeda's fanatical fighters to carry out a fresh wave of terror attacks," the Telegraph reported.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week said it was not likely al Qaeda members could have entered Iraq without Saddam's knowledge.
"There are al Qaeda in a number of locations in Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters. "In a vicious, repressive dictatorship that exercises near-total control over its population, it's very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what is taking place in the country."
Mr. Aldouri said Iraqi officials "have no relationship of any kind" with al Qaeda or the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan, adding that Baghdad was not involved in any way in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Those allegations are completely false," he said.

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