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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Iraq urges US restraint
An anti-American demonstration in Iraq
Sabri says Iraqis have been "threatened for 11 years"
By the BBC's Barbara Plett in Baghdad

Iraq's foreign minister has warned the United States not to use the twin towers attack as a pretext to bomb old enemies.

Naji Sabri told the BBC that Iraq had "no relation with what happened and no relation with the groups accused of what happened.


When Iraq defends itself against US aggression, it does so publicly

Naji Sabri
Iraq Foreign Minister
"We have been threatened for the last 11 years," he said. "If they want to expand that now, this would be another expression of the reckless, irresponsible aggressive policy of the United States."

US officials have admitted there is no proof of Iraqi involvement, but Baghdad is a familiar enemy in America and the CIA is examining possible links.

Link denied

Reports have said that prime suspect Mohammed Atta met Iraqi intelligence officers in Europe, something Iraq flatly denies.

"When Iraq defends itself against US aggression, it does so publicly," said Mr Sabri.

"We are not hiding the defence of our population and our independence, we do not need to go to covert actions because we are doing it overtly."

He was referring to Iraq anti-aircraft fire at US and British warplanes that patrol air exclusion zones in the north and south of the country.

No condemnation

There is a school of thought in the US that believes Iraq has been involved in several anti-American attacks, beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre.

Wreckage of World Trade Center
There is no evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks

The theory revolves mostly around alleged meetings between Iraqi intelligence and members of Osama Bin Laden's network, but there is no hard evidence to back it up.

Iraq was one of the few nations not to condemn the New York attack.

Mr Sabri said Baghdad thought the US needed advice rather than consolation.

Criminal policies

In initial statements President Saddam Hussein said America was reaping the fruit of its criminal policies.

"The Americans need to make a profound reassessment of their policy," Mr Sabri continued.

"They have used the law of force in dealing with the world for the last 50 years, now they're being repaid in kind."

When asked whether Iraq was taking precautions for a possible strike, the foreign minister said only that it had been doing so for the past 11 years.

He did not comment on reports that departments of key ministries had evacuated staff in anticipation of air strikes, saying that was an internal matter.

But the government is avoiding the media spotlight by limiting journalists' access to the country and their contacts with people, apparently keeping a low profile so as not to fuel speculation in the West.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Concerns about America's plans are added to an already heavy load"
See also:

23 Sep 01 | Middle East
Israel denies Iraqi terror attack link
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iraq denies role in US attacks
12 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iraq hails attack on US
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Analysis: Building a coalition
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