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Iraq

U.N. official urges Hussein to comply

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2003


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.N. nuclear chief warned in an interview published Monday that war is imminent if Saddam Hussein doesn't change his ways.

Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat he will send a message to Hussein with five Arab foreign ministers this week proposing "an essential change in spirit and essence."

"If Iraq, during the coming week or the next two weeks, failed to present absolute evidence that it does not possess (banned) weapons, we will walk the path of war," ElBaradei was quoted as saying. "The next two weeks will be decisive, and the ball is still in the Iraqi court."

As part of its most visible move to disarm, Iraq continued to crush its Al Samoud 2 missiles. Inspectors' spokesman Hiro Ueki said bulldozers crushed six more missiles Monday.

Report: Cells planning attacks

Al-Qaida cells are planning attacks on U.S. interests in the Middle East and elsewhere soon after the start of a military campaign against Iraq, according to a report in Newsday that quoted a senior Arab intelligence official.

Terrorists affiliated with Osama bin Laden's network also are plotting to strike American targets -- such as embassies, businesses and tourists -- in South Asia, and possibly in Europe, according to the official, whom Newsday quoted with an agreement that his name and country not be used. He said he had not seen concrete information suggesting plans for attacks on American soil.

To forestall potential attacks, security agencies are looking for signs of heightened surveillance of American and Western embassies and "softer" targets, such as cultural centers, hotels and nightclubs frequented by foreigners.

The comments echo recent statements from U.S. intelligence officials. CIA director George Tenet warned last month that al-Qaida was planning new attacks, including ones inside the United States. "Until al-Qaida finds an opportunity for the big attack, it will try to maintain its operational tempo by striking softer targets," Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The information we have points to plots aimed at targets on two fronts, in the United States and on the Arabian Peninsula."

The Arab official said there was a spike in communications among al-Qaida operatives in mid-February, around the time that an Arab satellite TV station aired an audiotape from bin Laden.

Elsewhere . . .

OPEC WILL INCREASE PRODUCTION DURING WAR: OPEC will ratchet up its oil production and possibly suspend its output quotas to keep the world supplied with crude in the event of a war with Iraq, the group's president said Monday. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can pump up to 4-million more barrels of oil a day, said OPEC president Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah.

BIDS TAKEN TO REBUILD IRAQ: The Bush administration, preparing what would be the most ambitious U.S. rebuilding project since the aftermath of World War II, expects in coming days to award a construction contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to begin remaking Iraq. The contract, the first to be awarded, would pay for construction and repairs to roads and bridges, as well as schools, hospitals and mosques, officials said.

ROMANIA EXPELS FIVE IRAQIS: Five unidentified Iraqi diplomats were expelled from Romania over the weekend for "activities incompatible with their status," diplomatic jargon for spying.

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