US peace activists arrive in Baghdad after desert trek http://www.jordantimes.com/Thu/news/news6.htm
BAGHDAD/CAIRO (Agen-cies) — Sixteen US peace activists arrived in Baghdad Wednesday after a 555-kilometre trip across the desert designed to express support for an end to UN sanctions on Iraq and opposition to an eventual US military strike.
Crowds gathered at the entrance of the capital to greet the group from the US-based anti-sanctions group Voices in the Wilderness, and the Compassion Iraq Coalition, an AFP correspondent reported.
Their "walk for peace" set off at the Jordan-Iraq border on Friday to highlight the need to avert a US strike on Iraq and demand the lifting of sanctions that have been in force since Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"You express the real noble feelings of the American people against their government's policies," said the head of Iraq's Friendship, Peace and Solidarity Organisation, Abderrazzak Hashem, as he greeted the group on its arrival in Baghdad.
The activists will meet Iraqi officials and tour hospitals during a weeklong stay.
The United States has threatened to take military action against Iraq and try to unseat President Saddam Hussein unless he readmits UN arms inspectors to verify Baghdad's claims to no longer have weapons of mass destruction.
Voices in the Wilderness, which is active in both the United States and Britain, said last week it would set up an "Iraq Peace Team" that would go to the country to be with "ordinary Iraqis" in anticipation of a possible US attack.
The US continued to justify its threats against Iraq on Wednesday by saying that Iraq could channel weapons of mass destruction to what it called "terrorist" groups.
"We are focused on (Iraq) because of the inherent danger of a regime that hostile and that aggressive possessing weapons of that type... and the support that that regime has provided to terrorist organisations," US Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith told a press briefing in Cairo.
"It is a strategic problem that there is risk that weapons that powerful could get into the hands of terrorists," said Feith, who discussed the "war on terror" with Egypt's defence and foreign ministers earlier on Wednesday.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday refused to discuss any plans for a US invasion of Iraq to overthrow President Saddam after reports that top American military commanders had argued against an imminent attack. The New York Times and The Washington Post said last week that some military leaders had cautioned President George W. Bush and Rumsfeld to delay or abandon any attack on Iraq.
"The people who attacked the United States on Sept. 11 would not have had any moral compunction about using weapons of mass destruction if they had possessed them," said Feith, who was due to visit Israel later on Wednesday.
'Five Iraqis wounded in Western air raid'
In another development, Iraq said five people were wounded on Tuesday when US and British planes attacked targets in the north of the country.
"At 13:00pm (0900 GMT) today American and British planes carried out 14 sorties from bases in Turkey, flying over Zakho, Amadiya, Duhouk, Aqra, Rawandouz, Dokan, Arbeil and Mosul," an Iraqi military spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency.
"The planes attacked our civilian and service installations in the province of Nineveh, wounding five people," the spokesman said. Iraq's ground air defences fired at the planes and forced them to return to their bases, he added.