- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein warned yesterday that if Iraq is attacked, it will take the war anywhere in the world, "wherever there is sky, land or water."
U.N. weapons inspectors flew most of their helicopters out of Iraq; Germany advised its citizens to leave the country immediately and said it would shut down its embassy in Baghdad.
Residents of the Iraqi capital lined up for gasoline and snapped up canned food and bottled water. People mobbed pharmacies to buy antibiotics and tranquilizers. Workers sandbagged fighting positions outside government buildings.
Saddam also divided the country into four military zones.
The military zoning announced overnight by the ruling Revolution Command Council (RCC) headed by Saddam was intended as a "means to rebuff and destroy any aggression if the villains carried it out," the state news agency INA said.
The move came as British, Spanish and U.S. leaders gathered in the Azores for an emergency summit on the Iraq crisis.
Despite the news of efforts to bolster its military defenses, Iraq said it was preparing to hand the United Nations a new report on anthrax.
It also offered documents on mobile labs that the United States and Britain charge are used to produce chemical and biological agents and destroyed two more of its banned Al-Samoud 2 missiles yesterday.
"The [anthrax] report will be given to the U.N. in two days," presumably tomorrow, a Baghdad-based diplomat who requested anonymity said. Iraq has said it destroyed its anthrax stocks in 1991.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix received a 25-page letter from Iraq Friday containing a report on the VX chemical agents it also says it destroyed 12 years ago.
This was followed yesterday by pictures and videotapes of mobile laboratories that Baghdad said are strictly for civilian purposes, the U.N. arms inspectors' spokesman in Baghdad, Hiro Ueki, told reporters.
As war appeared increasingly likely, Iraq's military carve-up put the central region around Baghdad and Saddam's hometown of Tikrit under the command of his younger son, Qusay, who heads the elite Republican Guard.
The northern region, including areas under the control of Kurdish rebels, was placed in the hands of Iraq's No. 2, Izzat Ibrahim, while Saddam's cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid was put in charge of the overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim southern zone, including the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar and Muthanna.
The other, mainly Shi'ite, zone of Furat al-Awsat, south of the capital, was placed under the command of RCC member Mizban Khader Hadi, who was also entrusted with control of the border guards.
The military zones will take "direct" orders from Saddam, who is also RCC secretary-general and commander in chief of the armed forces.
The zones were granted broad powers, but recourse to the "air force, surface-to-surface missiles and the anti-aircraft defenses" remains in the hands of the Iraqi president.
There was no immediate response to Iraq's invitation to chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei on Saturday to come to Baghdad and discuss new evidence of its accelerated disarmament.
"We're studying the contents of it and discussing it," Mr. Blix told CNN.
But in a sign of the mounting problems that the U.S. military buildup on Iraq's borders is causing for the U.N. mission, the world body confirmed it had been forced to withdraw five out of eight helicopters used by its arms experts for surprise inspections and aerial surveillance.
Insurers were no longer prepared to cover the aircraft, U.N. officials said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide