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US Warns Iraqi Leaders Change of Regime is 'Inevitable' - 2003-03-21

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is in contact with Iraqi leadership figures through a variety of channels, trying to persuade them that the fall of Saddam Hussein is "inevitable" and that they should not resist coalition forces.

The secretary was not specific about the contacts, but he said there are open channels to Baghdad, and messages are being passed through third parties, to make the case to key figures there that regime change and the "liberation" of Iraq is coming and that opposing U.S.-led forces will only lead to needless deaths and damage.

"It is now inevitable that there will be a change," he said. "Coalition forces are doing very well. The operation is going I think in a very fine manner. And in order to prevent any loss of life beyond that which may have occurred already, it would be wise for Iraqi leaders to recognize that their day is over, and that this is going to happen."

Mr. Powell also said he is in urgent talks with Turkish leaders to try to clear away issues that have prevented U.S. forces from using Turkish airspace for Iraq operations, despite a decision by Turkey's parliament Thursday authorizing such access.

Turkish authorities are understood to have linked the airspace issue with a demand that Turkish forces be allowed to enter northern Iraq to prevent refugee flows and deter attacks by separatist Kurdish guerrillas.

The secretary of state, who spoke here after a meeting with Cameroon's President Paul Biya, said the two issues should not be linked and that the United States sees no need for Turkish troops to enter Iraq.

"At the moment, we don't see a need for any Turkish incursions into northern Iraq, and we are talking with the Turkish authorities to see whether or not there is some planning we should do with respect to any humanitarian needs that might arise along the border," said Mr. Powell. "But our position is that these two items should be separable. Let's deal with the overflight issue, and deal with the need for making sure that there is not a disturbance along the Turkish-Iraq border."

Mr. Powell said he was hopeful of clearing up the airspace problem, but if not, the United States will have to find alternate arrangements. Privately, U.S. officials are said to be furious over what is seen as Turkish obstructionism at a critical point in the conflict.