- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Iraq fires blanket Iran cities with smoke
TEHRAN Iraq's southeastern marshlands are ablaze, and huge clouds of smoke have drifted over to Iran, officials said yesterday, with some pointing the finger at Saddam Hussein.
A spokesman for an Iranian provincial environmental protection office near the Iraqi border said a blanket of choking smoke covered the frontier cities of Abadan, Ahvaz and Khoramshahr. He suggested the marsh fires may have been started on orders of the Iraqi president to "prevent his regime's opposition from hiding."
Iran-based Iraqi opposition groups are active in the area, and with mounting U.S. pressure on his regime, Saddam is said to have stepped up operations against Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims in the south and Iraqi Kurds in the north. Saddam and Sunni Muslims like him rule Iraq, though Shi'ites are a majority, as in Iran.
However, a spokesman for the Iran-based Iraqi opposition group Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said he does not believe Baghdad was behind the current fires.

Suspected operative of al Qaeda deported
SYDNEY, Australia The government secretly deported a suspected al Qaeda operative to Saudi Arabia last November after he entered Australia to recruit fighters for the Chechen rebellion against Russia, a newspaper reported yesterday.
The Sydney Morning Herald said that after a violent incident in Melbourne, a Saudi who fought in Chechnya and arrived in Australia on a false passport was quietly handed over to the secret police in Saudi Arabia.
Quoting intelligence sources, the newspaper said the man, "an Osama bin Laden loyalist for at least 10 years," arrived in Australia in March 1999 on a mission to recruit fighters for a "holy war" against Russia.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the Saudi was accused by Muslim leaders in Melbourne of using or threatening violence against those who refused to donate to the Chechen rebels.

Lebanon taps river despite Israeli threat
WAZZANI, Lebanon A water-pumping station in southern Lebanon that Israel has said could spark a war yesterday began supplying eight villages in the Marjayoun region.
Project manager Sherif Wehbeh named the villages as Talloussa, Bani Hayyan, Mhaybeeb, Markaba, Mays al-Jabal, Blida, Houla and Aadaysseh. "Next week, the station will be distributing water to 40 villages in the Marjayoun and Hasbaya regions," he added.
Late Monday, a flare fired by Israeli soldiers started a fire near the pumping station where workers were putting the final touches on the project.

Weekly notes
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, yesterday winding up a two-day visit at which ties with the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi were aired. Mr. Berlusconi told the Italian news agency Ap.Biscom that Libya, which Italy ruled from 1911 to 1941, "is asking, in effect, for a gesture of generosity from Italy." Libya supplies 25 percent of Italy's energy, and "soon, with a new gas line, we'll be up to 30 percent," Mr. Berlusconi said. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived in Morocco Monday for two days of talks with King Mohammed expected to focus on a more unified Arab response to the Iraq crisis and Israeli-Palestinian violence. Egypt and Morocco are both strong allies of the United States, but oppose threatened U.S. military action against Iraq.

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