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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 11:30 GMT
US backs anti-Saddam radio plan
Pro-Saddam demonstration in Baghdad
The US wants to undermine support for Saddam
The United States is considering building a radio transmitter in Iran or rebel-held territory in northeast Iraq to broadcast anti-Saddam propaganda into Iraq.

The State Department said it has agreed in principle to fund the project, which is backed by the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC).

We are open to the concept of broadcasting from inside Iran or from Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq

US spokesman Richard Boucher
It comes amid increasing signs that America is planning to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Washington has previously resisted supporting INC activities in Iraq, considering them too risky or badly organised.

Officials are exploring the idea of basing the mast either in territory under the control of Iraqi Kurds - out of bounds to Saddam since the end of the Gulf War - or in Iran, long hostile to the Iraqi regime.

"We are open to the concept of broadcasting from inside Iran or from Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

He said the administration had been in talks with the INC on an opposition transmitter "for some time".

Anti-Saddam broadcasts

The station could be on the air within 45 days, broadcasting news and commentary on human rights abuses in Iraq and on the "plight of the Iraqi people," INC leader Ahead Chalabi told the Associated Press news agency.

Iraqi Kurd
Iraqi Kurds have been persecuted by Saddam
Washington was likely to fund the project at a cost of $178,000 a day, said Mr Chalabi.

The INC leader said the group prefers to erect the mast about 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on a 1,500 metre (5,000 foot) mountain, which straddles both Iraq and Iran.

Washington would have to request permission from either Iran or the Kurds to erect the transmitter.

The area within Iraq is controlled by the Kurdistan Socialist Party, which supports the plan, but it has met some resistance from two other local parties - the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Mr Chalabi said the groups are wary of backing the plan without assurances of US protection.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Britain backs US over Iraq
25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Annan to tackle Iraq over arms
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
Blair and Bush 'to discuss Iraq action'
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saddam scorns Bush 'baby talk'
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