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Syria wants Iraq to beat coalition

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2003

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa of Syria sharply criticized the United States in remarks Sunday about the conflict in Iraq, saying that his country wants America to lose the war.

"Syria has a national interest in the expulsion of the invaders from Iraq because the truth is that the U.S. administration has led its people to a catastrophic stage and put them in confrontation with the entire international community," Sharaa said while speaking to Parliament, praising the Iraqis' "courageous resistance."

He said that the war against Iraq was yet another example of the United States acting to serve Israel's interest in the region. He also said that officials in Washington relied on Israel for much of their information about the Arab world, information that often proved untrue.

IRAQIS SEEK HELP: Hundreds of grim-faced Iraqis lined up under sunny skies Sunday outside a United Nations office in Damascus seeking refuge or any aid they could get.

Some were recent arrivals: Iraqis who fled the war. Many others have lived in Syria for several years and were seizing the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Ajmal al-Khybari, an official for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Damascus, said about 650 Iraqis came to the agency Sunday. He said the numbers have increased dramatically since the U.S.-led bombing of Iraq began 10 days earlier.

Amnesty asks Blair to study civilian deaths

LONDON -- Amnesty International delivered a petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair's office Sunday, calling on the government to make more information public about civilian deaths in the war in Iraq.

Amnesty representatives from 50 countries -- including Britain, the United States and Israel -- presented the petition at No. 10 Downing St., urging the government to abide by international law during the conflict.

Neil Durkin, a spokesman for the human rights group, said he wanted to know what kind of investigations were under way into attacks on civilian areas of Baghdad. "Also, we hear a lot about how the Iraqis are treating POWs," he said. "But there is not much information on how Iraqi POWs are being kept."

Arnett criticized for talking on Iraqi TV

WASHINGTON -- Peter Arnett, who fought off charges of conveying Iraqi propaganda during the first Persian Gulf War, has handed fresh ammunition to those who say he sympathizes with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Arnett, who is in Baghdad covering the war for NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic, granted an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV. In the interview, which aired Sunday, he pronounced the U.S. effort so far a failure:

"It is clear that within the United States there is growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war. So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces ... help those who oppose the war."

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, called the interview "more evidence that Peter Arnett is an agenda-driven reporter" who is "primed to believe the U.S. military is going to fail" and that "people resisting us must have a heroic aspect to them."

Tom Rosenstiel, who runs the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said that given the past criticism of Arnett, "Blurring the line between reporter and actor in the drama invites that same confusion and maybe even makes it worse."

Israeli journalists say U.S. mistreated them

JERUSALEM -- Two Israeli journalists expelled from Iraq by the U.S. military said Sunday that American troops mistreated them during 72 hours of detention, denying them food and water and making them stand overnight in the cold.

Dan Scemama of Israel TV's Channel One and Boaz Bismuth of the Yediot Ahronot daily were traveling without accreditation with U.S. forces and two Portuguese journalists when they were taken into custody Tuesday night about 60 miles south of Baghdad.

Scemama said Sunday that the four were denied food and water for extended periods and were forced to stand in a cold tent in silence for an entire night. He said one of the Portuguese journalists was beaten by five U.S. soldiers.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan has said the four posed a security threat to U.S. soldiers, but said there was no indication of mistreatment. The matter is under investigation, he said.

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