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Iraq

Bush optimistic that wreckage will yield order

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003


WASHINGTON -- President Bush spoke on Saturday of Iraqi children kissing Marines and possible difficult fighting ahead as coalition forces struggled to bring order to the wreckage left by the collapse of President Saddam Hussein's government.

In his weekly radio address, Bush described Iraqis celebrating freedom and pledged that America will be their friend. He cautioned, however, that the fight is not over. The threat of suicide attacks remains, and looting had spread by Saturday to new areas of Baghdad.

"The conflict continues in Iraq, and our military may still face hard fighting. Yet the statues of the dictator and all the works of his terror regime are falling away," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

He taped the address Friday before visiting wounded U.S. troops and later flying to the Camp David presidential retreat for the weekend. On Saturday, the president worked out in a gym and conferred with aides over a video teleconference hookup. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and CIA director George Tenet are with the president at Camp David.

In his radio message, Bush talked of how Marines helped to free more than 100 children who, according to one report, had been jailed for refusing to join Hussein's Baath Party youth organization. The children, malnourished and wearing rags, were overjoyed to see their parents and the coalition soldiers.

According to Bush, Lt. Col. Fred Padilla, commander of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines, said: "The children just streamed out of the gates, and their parents just started to embrace us. Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us."

Busload of men stopped with bounty letters, cash

U.S. military officers said troops in the arid western stretches of Iraq stopped a bus apparently heading for Syria and found 59 men carrying $630,000 and letters promising rewards for those who killed U.S. soldiers. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, briefing reporters at the Central Command's regional headquarters in Doha, said the money was in $100 bills but the nationality of the men was uncertain and it was unclear who the letters were from.

Officials voiced suspicion the 59 were among several thousand non-Iraqi Arabs who volunteered to come to Iraq and help Hussein's forces defend against the U.S.-British invasion. U.S. officers have reported encountering the non-Iraqi fighters for the last several days in Baghdad.

Radio Free Iraq ready for move into Baghdad

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- After 23 years in exile, Iraqi journalist Kamran Al-Karadaghi is going home.

Al-Karadaghi, 64, is longing to see his family, friends and home country again. He's also looking forward to practicing his profession there. In Prague, he is the chief editor and deputy director of Radio Free Iraq, a division of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that has beamed broadcasts into Iraq since 1998.

Al-Karadaghi, 64, plans to establish a Baghdad bureau as soon as the city is safe enough to return home. His mission will be to start from scratch and provide something virtually unknown to his fellow citizens -- radio broadcasting not under the thumb of government.

"I feel quite relaxed at the moment, to be honest," he said. "No matter how difficult it will be to rebuild Iraq, nothing can be really worse than the regime of Saddam Hussein."

David Newton, Radio Free Iraq's director, said the station wants to expand broadcasting to 24 hours a day. The station broadcast five hours a day before the war and now is on the air for 10 hours.

Syria says destruction, not regime change, was goal

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa on Saturday accused the United States of waging war to destroy Iraq -- not oust President Saddam Hussein.

"Had the aim of the war been changing the regime in Iraq, we wouldn't have been seeing the suffering we are witnessing now of looting and theft in Iraqi cities," al-Sharaa told reporters during a news conference with French counterpart Dominique de Villepin.

America's "aim is to destroy Iraq's institutions, ministries and infrastructure that exist in all countries over the world and have nothing to do with the regime," al-Sharaa said referring to looting and chaos in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Al-Sharaa said Syria, the only Arab member of the U.N. Security Council and a staunch war opponent, was worried about "Iraq's dismantling at the hands of those who came to free it," and that U.S.-led forces will occupy Iraq indefinitely.

De Villepin also met with Syrian President Bashar Assad to discuss the Iraq war and Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria's official news agency reported.

Assad said Syria will "work to restore the United Nations' role in Iraq" and ensure Iraqis get the chance to shape their future. Syria would also work closely with the European Union "to restore security and stability to Iraq."

Cable snares viewers

NEW YORK -- The war in Iraq has caused television viewers to flock to the cable news networks, but that hasn't been the case for the broadcast evening news programs.

Since the war started, viewership is actually down for ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News compared with their season averages, according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC's Nightly News is up 3 percent.

During the same period, the average audience for Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC combined for any minute of the day has jumped from almost 2-million to 7.4-million.

The CBS Evening News audience of just under 7.5-million since the war started is a 15 percent drop. The ABC World News Tonight audience of 9.9-million is down 6 percent. ABC pointed out that the first two days of the war were not included in its ratings because the news aired without commercials; Nielsen doesn't normally count shows without commercials.

NBC, however, rose to 11.4-million.

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