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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Iraq mocks US plan to oust Saddam
Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan
Taha Yassin Ramadan is visiting Syria and Lebanon
Iraq has warned America that its efforts to unite opposition forces and depose President Saddam Hussein will fail.

Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan said on Friday that "Iraq is not Afghanistan" - an apparent reference to the successful US strategy of backing Afghan opposition forces to overthrow the Taleban.

"This talk about the Iraqi opposition is insignificant, something that doesn't merit a reply. It doesn't exist, and has no roots on the ground in Iraq," Mr Ramadan told reporters in Beirut.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein: No fear of opposition
The Bush administration has vowed to topple Saddam Hussein rather than let him develop weapons of mass destruction.

On Thursday there were reports that opposition members planned to meet in September to elect a government backed by the United States.

Earlier this month, the leaders of the six main Iraqi opposition groups met for talks in Washington to discuss ways of bringing down Saddam, and the subsequent political framework of Iraq.

The Iraqi vice president is on a four day visit to Syria and Lebanon, where he is hoping to bolster opposition to US war threats against Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri also joined the diplomatic drive, winning strong backing on a visit to China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Inspections impasse

Earlier this week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the Arab world was opposed to war with Iraq, which he said could destabilise the Middle East.
Weapons inspectors leaving Baghdad
Weapons inspectors left Baghdad in 1998
The Arab League has also voiced opposition to any prospect of a US attack on Iraq, and questioned where an armed conflict could eventually lead.

The League's ambassador to the UN, Yahir Mahmasanni, said that a change of regime in any country must come from within.

Later in the day, the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Mohammed al-Douri, underlined that Iraq was still willing to hold talks with the UN on allowing the return of weapons inspectors.

The inspectors left in 1998 after complaining of being blocked by Iraq and have not been allowed to return since.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has repeated that a change of government in Iraq would benefit the region.


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29 Aug 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Middle East
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