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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Iraq warns its neighbours
Tariq Aziz (L) meets Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal at the Damascus conference
Aziz played to existing Arab concerns
Iraq's Tariq Aziz has warned other Arab states that no country in the region will escape unscathed in the event of war with America.

"No Arab country is free of the threat, even if it takes part alongside America in the aggression against Iraq," he told reporters in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

When the crime ends, they [Arab states] will be made to submit to America and Zionism

Tariq Aziz
The Iraqi deputy prime minister was attending a conference of Arab intellectuals and politicians opposed to military action.

US President George W Bush has warned again that Iraq faces the "full force and fury" of a US-led coalition if it refuses to give up alleged weapons of mass destruction.

He told a rally in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Tuesday that it remained to be seen whether the United Nations had the "backbone" to uphold its own resolutions.

US plane takes off from Turkey's Incirlik air base
Planes patrolling the northern no-fly zone are based in Turkey
"But if they're unable to act, and if Saddam Hussein can't do what he said he would do, which is disarm, this country will lead a coalition and disarm him, for the sake of peace," the US leader said.

The US has reported that its planes bombed anti-aircraft missile launchers near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, after being threatened.

The Iraqi military, in a report quoted by the French news agency AFP, said four people were killed and 10 injured in the attack which, it said, was aimed at "civilian and service installations".

Attacks on Iraqi air defences in the no-fly zones have been frequent but have mainly occurred in the southern zone.

Playing to Arab fears

In Damascus, Mr Aziz insisted that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

"Since the end of 1991, all prohibited weapons were destroyed in Iraq," he said.

He said that all Arab states faced US and Israeli domination in the event of war.

Baghdad protest
Iraqis have been demonstrating in support of Saddam Hussein
"Don't think that [they are safe] if they make nice statements and offer bases to the Americans. When the crime ends, they will be made to submit to America and Zionism."

The BBC's Heba Saleh says that while Iraq is clearly trying to rally support, its warnings play to existing Arab fears.

Many commentators accuse the US of trying to dominate the Arabs and their oil. They believe the US wants to destroy Iraqi power to make the region safe for Israel.

Our correspondent says that Arab leaders are also worried about the precedent that ousting Saddam Hussein would set, fearing they could be next in line.

'Business as usual'

In Iraq itself, the state-run press has been pouring scorn on President Bush's threats of military action.

The city is giving the appearance of "business as usual" with preparations in full swing for a referendum next week to give Saddam Hussein another seven years in office.

One MP described it as a challenge to American threats.

Banners with pictures of hearts have been hung outside government buildings as television broadcasts love songs to the Iraqi leader.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Baghdad, says Iraq's denials that it possesses prohibited weapons show that it is clearly worried about war.

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See also:

09 Oct 02 | Middle East
08 Oct 02 | Americas
08 Oct 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Americas
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