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Iraq mourns '91 victims, rejoices over war protests

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- At the ruins of a bomb shelter struck by American missiles, Iraqi officials Sunday mourned the civilian victims of their last war with the United States and celebrated global antiwar protests aimed at preventing another one.

Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan presided over the ceremony inaugurating a memorial for the 403 people, mostly women and children, who Iraq says were killed when U.S. warplanes fired two missiles at the Amariya bomb shelter on Feb. 13, 1991.

The bombing was the worst civilian tragedy of the Persian Gulf War, launched by a U.S.-led coalition after Iraq invaded Kuwait. U.S. generals believed the shelter to be a command center.

On Saturday, millions around the world demonstrated against the threat of war, an outpouring Baghdad officials celebrated as an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America."

Iraq's tightly controlled newspapers covered the demonstrations prominently. "The world rises against American aggression and the arrogance of naked force," read one headline. "The world said with one voice: 'No to aggression on Iraq,' " read another.

PROTEST IN SAN FRANCISCO: More than 100,000 people hit the streets of San Francisco on Sunday to join the voices around the world this weekend protesting a U.S. war against Iraq.

Demonstrators had postponed their event one day to make way for the city's popular Chinese New Year parade and celebration. But the delay didn't hamper turnout, which appeared to swell throughout the day.

Bush aide talks of new U.N. resolution

WASHINGTON -- Faced with broad opposition to war at the United Nations, President Bush's national security adviser said Sunday that the White House might push a new U.N. plan to force a showdown with Saddam Hussein.

Condoleezza Rice said it was becoming more obvious that the Iraqi president would not disarm voluntarily and that the U.N. was letting him get away with it.

"Continuing to talk about more time and more time and more time is simply going to relieve pressures on the Iraqis to do what they must do," Rice said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Rice said on Fox News Sunday that the administration may ask the U.N. to take up a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, although she said action was already sanctioned by a previous resolution.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the same program that the resolution being presented this week by the United States and Britain would likely call for "definitive progress" in the disarmament of Iraq.

Chief inspector says U.N. could change its mind

VIENNA -- The chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Sunday that nations now opposed to using force against Iraq could change their minds if Baghdad doesn't show more willingness to reveal evidence of weapons programs.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the U.N. search for banned weapons along with Hans Blix, told the Associated Press that the onus is on Iraq, not the U.N. inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction, to prove that it had nothing to hide.

ElBaradei, who heads the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said Security Council sentiment could swing toward Washington unless Baghdad convincingly demonstrates its eagerness to reveal all evidence of past and present nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

Arab diplomats can't agree on need for summit

CAIRO -- Arab foreign ministers could not agree Sunday on whether to hold an emergency summit on the Iraqi crisis, spending most of the day disputing whether Washington or Baghdad should do more to avert a war.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said after the meeting that the ministers decided to continue talks on convening a summit, which Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called for on Friday.

Also . . .

FRENCH LEADER CREDITS U.S.: The U.S. military deployment in the Persian Gulf has made it possible to peacefully disarm Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview published Sunday on Time magazine's Web site. Chirac said if inspectors are able to certify Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction, "there can be no doubt that it will be due in large part to the presence of American forces" nearby.

ANTHRAX QUESTIONS: Officials in both Sweden and Finland said over the weekend that the Iraqi embassy in their country requested information last year about detecting anthrax and protecting against it. Both countries said they did not answer.

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