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Iraqi Radio, TV are Legitimate Targets, asserts British Opposition Leader - 2003-03-25

A senior British politician is calling for coalition forces to attack Iraq's broadcasting facilities to knock Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his government off the air.

Questions are arising in Britain about why Saddam Hussein and his officials continue to enjoy access to the airwaves in Iraq even as U.S. troops advance toward Baghdad.

The leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, says the Iraqi people are being fed anti-American and anti-British propaganda, and he thinks it should be stopped.

"The news about their own problems is nil, but news about ally difficulties is traded across their screens, plus all the key people looking as though they are in charge," he said. "Now what we need to do, I believe, is what we did essentially in Belgrade. I think we need to take out the radio and television within Iraq and make sure therefore they cannot communicate these messages."

He said the Iraqi workers should be given warning to evacuate ahead of any attack in order to minimize the sort of criticism the allies got when television facilities in the former Yugoslavia were bombed.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked at a London news conference why the Iraqi stations are still on the air. He did not answer directly, but he hinted that the allies may have plans to use the broadcasting infrastructure to communicate to the Iraqi people after they take Baghdad.

"I think there will come a point where they [the Iraqi people] realize that the regime grip on power is being pried away, and I think that will happen in a way that then has an immediate impact on the population," said Mr. Blair. "And it is not surprising at the moment at any rate that Saddam carries on pumping out the propaganda that he always has."

Meanwhile, Britain's international broadcast monitoring system reported that it lost reception of Iraqi television for nearly two hours. There was no immediate explanation for the interruption.