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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 20:42 GMT
Iraq attack 'means third world war'
Baghdad street scene and mosque - BBC
Teeming Baghdad: War "will involve the cities"

A US attack on Iraq would mean "more Mombasas, more Balis," a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations says.

The warning comes from Hans von Sponeck, the UN's humanitarian aid co-ordinator in Iraq from 1998 to 2000.

Mr von Sponeck said the US was doing all it could to provoke war with Baghdad, and was "brutally" pressurising other governments to support its policies.

But most people in the Middle East saw no justification for any pre-emptive attack.


The US will win the battle fairly quickly, but it will lose the war

Hans von Sponeck

Mr von Sponeck, a German citizen, was speaking to BBC News Online from his home in Switzerland after spending five weeks in the Middle East.

"I've been in Lebanon, Iraq itself, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - and if there's one common denominator, it's fear and rejection of the idea of war," he said.

Easing the pressure

"I heard it from officials, and from people in the souks. They see it as a war between Islam and Christianity, which of course it isn't - and they're so angry.

Iraqi mother and sick child - BBC
Many Arabs feel Iraq has suffered enough
"No one, not even the casual reader, can miss the almost desperate attempts by the US authorities to destroy the arms inspection before it's properly begun - to provoke a war, in fact.

"On Thursday the inspectors went to the al-Dawrah foot-and-mouth vaccine production laboratory. Journalists said it showed no signs of use 'to the untrained eye'.

"I went there with a German TV crew in July, and only the shell of the building was still standing. Nothing could come out of there.

"There are more than 700 sites to be examined, and it needs to be done professionally, with the inspectors left alone and put under no pressure.

"And nobody - media, individuals, or governments - should prejudge their findings."

Home-made kit

If, despite the arms inspections, the US were to attack Iraq, Mr von Sponeck thought the consequences would be apocalyptic.

Anti-war protestor in London   PA
Anti-war protest in London
"The early stages will go pretty much according to the US plan", he said. "The Iraqi military is in miserable straits, quite desperate.

"It's been reduced to buying hand-made spare parts for its equipment from back-street workshops.

"So we'll see high-flying technology knocking Iraq to smithereens. But if you want regime change, you'll have to have troops on the ground in the cities.

Giving peace a chance

"The real test will come in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, places like that - with all the inevitable casualties on all sides.

"The US will win the battle fairly quickly, but it will lose the war. This will be world war three, but it won't be like the first two - it'll be a global terror war," he said.

"If it does come to war, I think we shall see many more Mombasas, more Balis. I shiver when I hear the extreme views some people have in the region.

"But there is a public conscience in the US, there are many people with a natural sense of human rights - there's a growing peace movement there.

"There and elsewhere, more people are realising that we have got to tackle the causes of terrorism, not to practise it ourselves."


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29 Nov 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
14 Feb 00 | Middle East
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