- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

The Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of opposition forces fighting Saddam Hussein, says the Bush administration has agreed to host a major gathering of former Iraqi military officers in Washington in the coming weeks.
The INC says the gathering will be the largest of its kind, bringing together both INC and non-INC military leaders who will devise an operational plan to topple Saddam.
The London-based group announced the conference last month, but the State Department said at the time that visa problems for many of the expected 200-plus participants had complicated plans to hold the meeting in Washington.
The INC, headed by former banker Ahmed Chalabi, has received a mixed reception from the Bush administration.
Many of those in the U.S. government who favor military action against Saddam, especially officials in the Pentagon, see the group as a valuable ally along the lines of the opposition Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
But the State Department has been skeptical about the INC's organizational skills and military prowess, and briefly froze U.S. aid to the group over an accounting dispute.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney, meanwhile, neared the end yesterday of a Middle East tour, in which one Arab leader after another has counseled him against opening a campaign against Iraq in the war on terrorism.
Reflecting the views of his fellow leaders, Bahraini Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa told Mr. Cheney that Arabs are more concerned about what they see as "Israeli violence" against Palestinians than they are about Iraq.


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