- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

IRAN
Erstwhile enemies exchange prisoners
TEHRAN Iran and Iraq exchanged 646 prisoners Monday and yesterday, 15 years after the end of the war between the two countries, the head of the armed forces prisoner of war committee announced yesterday.
Iraq handed over 251 Iranian prisoners in two stages yesterday through the Khosravi border post near Qasr-e-Shirin, Abdollah Najafi told the state news agency IRNA. A day earlier, Iran delivered 395 prisoners of war to Iraq, Mr. Najafi added.
"About 300 more Iraqi POWs are now at the border point to be handed over by Iran," he said, adding that 100 more Iranians will be freed in the next 24 hours.

SYRIA
Wealthy Iraqis leave country
DAMASCUS The two perfumed ladies just in from Baghdad insisted at first that they had come to Syria for a religious holiday, but their white station wagon taxi crammed with suitcases, boxes, furniture and crates of drinking water betrayed plans to sit out an expected U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
"We don't know how long we will stay," the older woman said in Sayyida Zeinab, a dusty suburb of Damascus. "We might go on to stay with my daughter in Dubai, not that we're running away from war. It's just a good time to visit."
Western diplomats say Syria has been low key about plans to deal with refugees. But relief agencies say well-heeled Iraqis are trickling in, while aid groups are beefing up field staff to prepare for an influx across the border with Iraq.

ISRAEL
Leftists, Arabs fear Palestinian expulsions
JERUSALEM A coalition of Israeli leftists and Palestinian activists voiced fears yesterday that the Israeli army would use a U.S.-led war on Iraq as cover to expel large numbers of Palestinians from their homes.
"Transfer may mean expulsion of Palestinians from the county altogether or the transfer of populations from areas of the West Bank earmarked for annexation to other areas," U.S.-Israeli activist Jeff Halpern told reporters in East Jerusalem. "These actions are likely to be spearheaded by militias of armed [Jewish] settlers," he said at a press conference organized by the Palestinian-Israeli Emergency Committee.

Weekly notes …
Egypt acquitted U.S.-Egyptian human rights activist Saadeddin Ibrahim yesterday after his second retrial in a case that had strained ties between Cairo and Washington. "I feel good. I feel grateful. I'd like to thank everyone who stood by me for the last three years," Mr. Ibrahim told reporters. … Newspapers in the Persian Gulf region were caught yesterday between resignation to a potentially catastrophic war on Iraq and hope for an 11th-hour miracle: Saddam Hussein's departure. "There is nothing to do but wait for zero hour when the missiles and bombs begin to rain on Iraq, in an unjust war that will have catastrophic consequences for the whole region," Qatar's Al-Raya newspaper said.

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