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Iraq Denies Soldiers Are Disguising as Civilians


Iraq is denying allegations by coalition officials that Iraqi soldiers are disguising themselves as civilians. Meanwhile, Iran and Syria have strongly denied charges by a top U.S. official that they are getting involved in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, denounced as cheap propaganda charges by U.S. and British officials that Iraqi soldiers are dressing as civilians. He said Iraqi civilians are defending themselves. "There is no Iraqi military disguising himself," he said. "Those are Iraqi civilians fighting against those mercenaries. Our people [are] fighting those mercenaries and invaders and they will be eliminated gradually."

At a news conference Saturday in Baghdad, the information minister charged that U.S. bombing overnight in Baghdad caused more than 100 casualties.

U.S. officials say they are investigating to see whether its forces were responsible.

Officials in Iran on Saturday denied that Iranian authorities were allowing hundreds of Iran-based fighters allied with Iraq's Shiite Muslim opposition to cross into Iraq.

Government spokesman Abdullah Ramazanzadeh said Iran maintains a policy of active neutrality in this war.

Iran was responding to a comment Friday by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that hundreds of Iranian-backed Iraqi rebels were crossing into Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld also said military equipment was being shipped from Syria into Iraq.

A spokeswoman for the Syrian foreign ministry, Bouthaina Shaaba, on Saturday said the accusations were "absolutely unfounded."

Meanwhile, Egypt is voicing increasing concern about the war and the number of civilians killed. Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Maher said his country is worried about what he called the "occupation" of Iraq and the growing number of civilian casualties.

He added that Egypt was concerned that as more civilians are killed the anger in the Arab world would increase. On Friday 15,000 people rallied against the war in Egypt.

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