- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

U.S. diplomats have taken steps in foreign capitals to counter what State Department officials call a new "Iraqi charm offensive," a public relations campaign organized by Baghdad after President Bush last month included the regime in his "axis of evil."
Late last month, the State Department drafted a set of "talking points" for U.S. embassies meant to counter a series of symbolic steps Baghdad has taken in the last two months to soften its image abroad.
Last week, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was concluding a routine visit to an Iraqi nuclear reactor, an interagency committee called the "Iraq Public Diplomacy Group" approved the detailed talking points, according to two members of that panel.
The talking points, dubbed "Countering Iraq's Charm Offensive," instruct American ambassadors to tell their host governments such things as, "Iraq has done all it can to prevent the U.N. Security Council from lifting sanctions on civilian goods and installing an arms control regime."
Since December, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has agreed to allow a top U.N. official for human rights to visit Baghdad, the first such invitation in 10 years. Iraq has also allowed the IAEA to inspect a nuclear power facility and has invited a Kuwaiti team to visit prisons where Kuwaiti nationals may have been held as POWs during the Gulf War in 1991.
"Every one of these measures is a half-measure, a clear public relations gambit," one State Department official told UPI yesterday.
Judith Kipper, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic International Studies who returned last week from a trip to the Gulf region, said the recent Iraqi gestures were meant to stave off an American attack.


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