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Baghdad offers dialogue with U.S.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 22, 2003

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan offered a "dialogue" with the United States, saying in an interview that his country was ready to talk if Washington abandons "aggression" and ceases "interference in internal affairs."

Whether the remarks constitute a serious proposal or were meant merely as a general willingness to talk with any nation -- Israel excluded -- the offer was unlikely to gather any immediate steam.

U.N. EVACUATES: Half of the U.N. humanitarian staff in Iraq has left the country over the last two weeks to make an evacuation easier in case of war, a U.N. official said on condition of anonymity.

NONALIGNED SUMMIT: Iraq campaigned for support among one of the world's largest political groupings against invasion by the United States, but diplomats were unable to agree on a strongly worded declaration that characterized any attack as "aggression." The delegates of the 114-nation Non-Aligned Movement were meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

POWELL TALKS TO GERMANS: Secretary of State Colin Powell appealed to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the German public to reconsider their opposition to war in Iraq, insisting that war is sometimes unavoidable. Germany's conservative opposition leader is heading to Washington next week to tell the Bush administration that not all Germans share Schroeder's flat refusal to back war on Iraq and that some want to heal the bitter rift with the United States.

'HUMAN SHIELDS': Seventeen foreigners bunked down Friday night at a Baghdad water purification plant as the first "human shields" to deploy in Iraq in preparation for a looming U.S.-led war. The volunteers from Sweden, Spain, Italy and Finland weren't roughing it: Their quarters at the Seventh of April water purification station were a huge room with beds, a television, electric heaters and a large table.

AFRICAN SUMMIT: French President Jacques Chirac emerged Friday from a summit of 52 African countries -- including three that hold seats on the U.N. Security Council -- with a unanimous endorsement of France's opposition to a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

IRAQ REJECTS TERROR TIES: Iraq has rejected U.S. claims of links to a Kurdish terrorist group believed connected to al-Qaida, and said it has offered to hand over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Baghdad had no ties to Ansar al-Islam or Abu Musaab Zarqawi, who has been linked to the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan and poison plots in a half-dozen European countries.

Sabri, in a 13-page letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to rebut U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council this month, also said Baghdad is offering to hand over to Washington Abdul-Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who is on the FBI's most-wanted list.

RUSSIAN PROPOSAL: The lower house of the Russian Parliament called for legislators from around the world to meet in Baghdad next month to discuss how to stave off a U.S. attack on Iraq -- a dramatic idea that seemed unlikely to materialize.

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