- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 14 (UPI) — A group of Iraqi exiles associated with prior Baghdad governments has appealed to President Saddam Hussein to relinquish power and save the Iraqi people from the devastation of war with the United States, Lebanese newspapers reported Friday.

Among the group of 38 men were members of Arab nationalist governments between the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958 and the 1968 Ba'ath Party seizure of power. They included five former ministers and a number of businessmen, ambassadors, journalists, academics and writers.

"To avoid the war and its bitter consequences undoubtedly requires a comprehensive change in Iraq, especially that the command of the present regime step down and open the way to a better future for the country," they said in their published statement.

They blamed Saddam's regime for being the principal factor in numerous crises and disasters inflicted on Iraq and Arab interests. They emphasized the need to protect Iraq's unity and sovereignty as well as to consolidate national unity while respecting the national rights of the Kurdish people.

They said establishment of a pluralistic, democratic rule was the only way out of the present "dangerous impasse."

The exiles called for a government that represents the popular will with a constitutional council directly elected in honest and democratic elections. A new constitution should then be adopted and parliamentary elections be held, they said.

All traces of political, ethnic and religious repression should be eliminated and political and civil rights be guaranteed without distinction to Iraqi citizens.

The exiled Iraqis called for the immediate lifting of a 12-year U.N.-imposed embargo on Iraq and settlement of Iraq's debts so as to rebuild the country's economy. They called for cooperation with other oil-producing countries for the sake of the international oil market's stability.

The called for an initial temporary administration, working in cooperation with the United Nations, that would have a clear timetable and limited prerogatives needed to preserve internal security and defend Iraq.

Among the exiled Iraqis was former ministers Ahmad al-Habubi, Adib al-Jadir and Abd al-Hassan Zalzala, who also formerly was Arab League assistant secretary-general; former Foreign Minister Adnan Bajaji, and former Oil Minister Issam al-Jalabi.

They also include former OPEC Assistant Secretary-General Fadil al-Jalabi, former Foreign Ministry Director-General Munzir Oreim, Mehdi Hafiz, head of the Arab Society for Economic Research, and former Oil Ministry Director-General Mehdi Shaykh Ali.

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