- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Note: A Clarification to this story has been published. Please see below.

Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, sharply criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East yesterday, urging the Bush administration to leave Yasser Arafat alone and warning that a military strike on Iraq would be an "attack against God Himself."
He denied again a report by the Iraqi News Agency quoting him as having said during a visit to Baghdad that American Muslims were praying for an Iraqi victory over the United States.
Mr. Farrakhan, who returned earlier this month from a "peace mission" to Africa and the Middle East, told reporters that an atmosphere of American "patriotism" is trying to vilify him as an enemy of the nation.
"The only victory that I and the people of this mission prayed for was peace. I would never go on a peace mission and pray for a war."
Mr. Farrakhan said that President Bush's opposition to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had only strengthened support for him and stirred up anti-American anger.
"If America fails to use her heavy leverage in a positive way to bring about peace, the conflict will widen and American interests will be damaged," he said.
Mr. Farrakhan, who advocates a full Israeli pullout from the West Bank, urged U.S. and United Nations officials to supervise the creation of a Palestinian state.
Asked about the Palestinian suicide bombings, he condemned what he said were dire circumstances that left Palestinians with no choice but terrorism. "When people reach that level of despair, they do what they think they must do."
Mr. Farrakhan met with high-level Iraqi officials in the latest of several visits he has made to Iraq over the last decade. He said any military strike on Iraq "would increase hatred for the American administration" and would cause a popular uprising.
A spokesman from the White House declined to comment on prospective war plans. The United States and the United Nations have had sanctions in place against Iraq since the Gulf war ended more than 10 years ago.
Mr. Farrakhan has decried those sanctions, which U.N. officials say they will not lift until weapons inspectors are allowed into the country.
He said he would offer a detailed summary of his trip to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, along with advice not to attack Iraq and an appeal to refrain from calling for a new Palestinian leader to replace Yasser Arafat.

Correction: In its July 22 editions, The Washington Times quoted Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, as having said in remarks at the National Press Club the day before that an attack by the United States on Iraq would be "an attack against God Himself." Through his lawyer, Mr. Farrakhan denies making this statement. In what is described as an "edited transcript" supplied by Mr. Farrakhan's lawyer, the passage in question reads: "Such aggression in the name of a pre-emptive strike against anyone that the United States presumes or assumes is developing weapons of mass destruction would not only be unwise and improper, but it would place the United States opposite God Himself." Mr. Farrakhan further says, according to the edited transcript: "If America would assume an aggressive posture, under the name of a pre-emptive strike without ever proving to the American people that it is worthy of America, then God would take a position. And that position would be against the aggressor."

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