St. Petersburg Times
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U.S. asks all nations to expel any Iraqi envoys

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 21, 2003

WASHINGTON -- In an unusual diplomatic move, the Bush administration called Thursday for the expulsion of Iraqi diplomats by all countries that recognize and deal with the government in Baghdad.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the diplomats represented a "corrupt and ruthless regime" and he cited Iraq's refusal to disarm.

The three Iraqi diplomats based in the Algerian Embassy in Washington were told to leave.

Also Thursday, the State Department temporarily suspended or sharply reduced operations in about 30 countries. The decision was based on an assessment of the security situation in those countries by the senior American diplomats there.

U.N. seeks help for refugees

The United Nations' chief refugee coordinator appealed Thursday to Iraq's neighbors to open their borders to war refugees as international aid organizations hurried to increase their preparations for a potential humanitarian crisis.

Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the imperative to save lives requires that neighboring countries provide access to refugees and relief organizations that aim to help. He called on the rest of the world community to "do its part" by supporting aid efforts.

The World Food Program projects that 2.1-million people could need emergency assistance in the coming month. Government food stocks are low and deliveries to Iraq have been interrupted, leading to worries about segments of the population already undernourished.

Iraq's neighbors have sent a fluctuating mixture of messages about plans for possible refugee flows. Worried about creating a long-term refugee population, countries including Turkey, Syria and Kuwait have indicated they intend to block entry to most refugees, instead encouraging the establishment of centers on the Iraq side of the borders.

Report: $70-billion to be sought

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is expected next week to submit the first installment of the bill for war with Iraq -- a tab of $70-billion to $75-billion that would cover one month of fighting and several months of occupation, the Los Angeles Times reported, quoting unnamed sources.

Administration and congressional sources both warned Thursday that the request is unlikely to cover the full cost of the war and its aftermath and that the White House will have to return to Congress for more money, the newspaper reported.

That suggests that the final cost of the conflict could easily top the $100-billion mark that senior administration officials have repeatedly dismissed as outsized.

A spokesman with the White House Office of Management and Budget declined to comment on the administration's war budget request, saying that officials have still not settled on some elements of the proposal and that President Bush has yet to sign off on the measure.

Events canceled around U.S.

In San Francisco, participants in a 12-kilometer road race won't be running the usual scenic route across the Golden Gate Bridge.

In New York, ticketholders won't get to see the remaining performances of Faust at the Metropolitan Opera with soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna.

As war in Iraq got under way, security concerns at home mounted, prompting people around the country to cancel or suspend everything from performances to foot races to a political ad campaign.

Sunday's Across the Bay race in San Francisco has been rerouted. The new orange-level terror designation from the Department of Homeland Security prohibited race organizers from getting a permit to cross the landmark bridge.

The event, which raises money for a nonprofit center for abused children, has been redirected and renamed the Orange Alert Alternative Course.

The husband-and-wife team of opera singers at the Met canceled their remaining performances and left the United States after Monday night's show, saying they were concerned about terrorism and needed to be home with their children in France.

Another foot race, the D.C. Marathon, also was canceled. More than 6,800 runners from 50 states and 14 countries had registered to run the marathon, which was to take place Sunday in Washington.

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