- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

From combined dispatches

LONDON — The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has turned the country into a new hub of terrorism worse than Afghanistan under the Taliban, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday.

Mr. Annan also said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that he expected to face blame over the Iraqi oil-for-food program when investigators deliver a report this week.

Hours before he spoke, carloads of Iraqi insurgents staged an audacious daylight assault against the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, killing two policemen before escaping.

Mr. Annan told BBC World Service radio that the war was contributing to Muslim anger throughout the world.

“I think there are many Muslims that are extremely unhappy today. Unhappy because they feel victimized, they feel isolated, they feel victimized in their own society, they feel victimized in the West, and they feel this profiling against them. And the Iraqi situation has not helped matters,” he said.

“In fact, one used to be worried about Afghanistan being the center of terrorist activities. My sense is that Iraq has become a major problem, and in fact, it’s worse than Afghanistan,” he said.

Regarding the oil-for-food investigation, Mr. Annan said he believed chief investigator Paul Volcker would criticize him and others involved in the $64 billion program.

“I suspect that there will be lots of criticism [for] myself as chief admin officer, probably something on the [supervisory] committee, the Security Council, the government of Iraq,” he said. “When it comes to Iraq, on this issue, no one is entirely covered in glory.”

Mr. Volcker, a former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman is expected to deliver a major report on the program tomorrow.

“Oil for food was an extra program we were asked to undertake. Honestly, I wish we were never given that program, and I wish the U.N. would never be asked to take that kind of a program again,” Mr. Annan said.

In Baghdad yesterday, thunderous explosions and volleys of heavy gunfire rattled the downtown area soon after sunrise as about four carloads of insurgents staged a raid on the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for police and paramilitary units nationwide.

The insurgents, who fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, withdrew after about 15 minutes, leaving two policemen dead and five wounded. There was no report of insurgent casualties.

A statement posted on an Islamic Web site claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq, led by a Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

U.S. Marines said the same group had conducted multiple attacks the day before against U.S. and Iraqi targets in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. Eight civilians, an Iraqi soldier and three suicide bombers died in the Hit attacks

Elsewhere, at least eight Iraqi civilians — including five children — were killed in fighting yesterday in Tal Afar, said Abdul-Aal Kamal of the northern city’s hospital.

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