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Arabs bristle at suggestion that Hussein resign

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt -- Arab leaders said they reject a war on Iraq and U.S. threats to remove Saddam Hussein, but their message Saturday was undermined by exchanges of insults and sharp divisions at a summit aimed at finding unity over the Iraq crisis.

Highlighting the splits, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nation to propose publicly that Hussein step down. When other leaders refused to discuss the idea, the Emirati information minister grumbled the Arab League "didn't have the courage."

Near the close of the one-day summit, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah angrily insulted each other. Live broadcast of the session halted soon after, and other leaders had to persuade Abdullah not to quit the meeting, diplomats said.

A final statement issued after the summit's close expressed "complete rejection of any aggression on Iraq" and urged more time for inspections.

Powell: U.S. giving weapons inspectors time

PARIS -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a radio interview aired Saturday the United States was giving more time to weapons inspectors in Iraq and a U.S-backed resolution paving the way for military action would not be voted on immediately.

Powell also said the United States did not want to "remodel" the Middle East.

"We have not yet asked for a vote (on the second resolution) because we're still looking for a peaceful solution," Powell told RFI. "We are giving the inspections process more time, as many have asked for. But in the end, one must conclude we can't go on very long like that."

Iraq putting missiles within range of Kuwait

Iraq has placed surface-to-surface missiles within range of Kuwait in recent weeks, prompting U.S. airstrikes and opening a new phase in the low-grade air war between Iraq and the United States, officials said.

Until recently, almost all airstrikes the United States and Britain have carried out have been aimed at disabling Iraqi air defenses. The attacks were intended to enforce the no-flight zones over southern and northern Iraq and to make it easier for the United States to achieve air superiority quickly if a war begins.

But recently, they have targeted surface-to-surface missiles and rockets, systems that could threaten a U.S.-led invasion force and Iraqi resistance movements.

Iraq seems to be trying to put in place a capability to strike into the rear of a U.S.-led force and to slow an attack. The United States seems determined to strike any missiles it finds in the south or the north to ensure a U.S.-led attack could be swift, decisive and uninterrupted.

Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken suspended

LIVING SUPPORT AREA 7, Kuwait -- Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken has been shut down, at least for now.

Just more than a week after 43 chickens were brought here to ride into battle with the Marines, all but two have died.

The plan was to use the chickens the way miners once used caged canaries to warn them of poisonous gas underground. If the Marines moved into southern Iraq during a war, the chickens would be an early signal if Iraq launched biological or chemical weapons.

More likely, the birds would have warned the Marines of false alarms that could be set off by nonlethal oil fires.

But the locally bought birds started dying the day they arrived, and they just kept dying, said Sgt. Ken Griffin of the 7th Regiment.

Also . . .

IRAQI JETS BREACH NO-FLY ZONE: Iraqi fighter jets entered the southern no-fly zone twice last week, apparently trying to test U.S. responses or look for surveillance drones, military officials said Saturday.

The MiG-25s flew no more than 70 miles into the no-fly zone before looping around to return to an Iraqi air base north of the zone, the military officials said.

U.S. DROPS LEAFLETS: The U.S. military for the first time dumped 240,000 leaflets over northern Iraq, warning antiaircraft gunners not to fire on coalition aircraft.

The leaflets were dropped Saturday near Iraqi antiaircraft artillery batteries about 10 miles north of Mosul, the U.S. European Command said.

POPE SENDS ENVOY TO WASHINGTON: Intensifying his diplomatic efforts to avert a war against Iraq, Pope John Paul II is sending a special envoy to Washington to meet with President Bush, the Vatican said Saturday.

Cardinal Pio Laghi, an Italian who for years served as the Holy See's ambassador to the United States, will leave Rome in the next few days, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING ENDS: The fragmented Iraqi opposition took a step toward unity Saturday and insisted they should be allowed to run the country's affairs if Saddam Hussein is ousted.

"The Iraqi people should have the first and last word in deciding and managing the affairs of their country," their four-page joint statement declared.

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