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Baghdad Not Concerned War on Terrorism Will Expand Into Iraq - 2001-12-21


Iraq's representative to the Arab League says his country is not concerned - and has no reason to believe - that the United States will expand the war on terrorism into Iraq.

There has been recent speculation about the possibility of US military action against Iraq as part of the battle against international terrorism. Iraqi newspapers, including one owned by the son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, have suggested such an attack appeared imminent.

But Iraq's representative to the Arab League in Cairo, Mohsen Khalil, told VOA that as far as Iraq is concerned, talk of the US expanding its war on terrorism into Iraq is nothing more than speculation by the media. Mr. Khalil said Iraq does not feel threatened.

Mr. Khalil said the issue is not a matter of feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. "What matters for us," he said, "is that we are not concerned about what is being circulated in the media on a possible attack against Iraq and we believe there is no reason to attack Iraq."

Additionally, Mr. Khalil said he is not concerned about a recent statement from US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice who indicated the Iraqi people would be better off without President Saddam Hussein. Mr. Khalil said the statement represents her own point of view. However, he said, Ms. Rice is not entitled to speak on behalf of the Iraqi people and she is not allowed to speak on behalf of the Arab world. Mr. Khalil said she is free to express her own personal opinion.

There has been discussion in Washington about the possibility of expanding the anti-terrorism effort in Afghanistan to Iraq. President Bush recently warned the Iraqi president that "he'll find out" the consequences if he does not accept international weapons inspectors in Iraq.

However, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, quoted in a Washington Post newspaper interview Friday, downplayed the idea of expanding the anti-terrorism war from Afghanistan to Iraq. According to Secretary Powell, "They are two different countries with two different regimes, two very different military capabilities." He said, "you can't take the Afghan model and immediately apply it to Iraq."

Mr. Khalil said Iraq understands discussion of possible military strikes exist "within certain circles of the Bush administration." But he said Iraq is not concerned and has no reason to expect the US will launch any attacks against it. Mr. Khalil said there would be no justification for such an attack.