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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 13:35 GMT
'Signs of Iraqi dissent'
Iraqis pass by a shop displaying pictures of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad 20 January 2003.
A shop displaying pictures of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad
Iraqi defectors and asylum seekers in the UK are reported to have told security services that there are increasing signs of dissent in Iraq.

UK Government sources say graffiti and leaflets critical of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have been appearing in areas of Iraq which remain under his control.

There is also said to be increased underground activity by anti-regime political groups.

BBC correspondents says there is no way of assessing the significance or otherwise of this information.

'Anti-Saddam slogans'

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, told reporters on Wednesday there "indications of unrest in some of the Iraqi leadership, but just hints".

And on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told a committee of MPs he believed the Iraqi regime was crumbling and was rattled by the build-up of military forces.

According to the UK Government sources, the reported dissent in Iraq includes the appearance of anti-government slogans and graffiti on statues and photos of Saddam Hussein, and public buildings.

Some of them reportedly read: "Down with Saddam" and "For how long will the Iraqi people sleep?"

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says the UK Government, like the Bush administration, clearly has an interest in painting a picture of dissent in Iraq.

He says neither has given up hope that a military coup might oust the Iraqi leader, or that he might flee into exile.

However, the British sources say they are not suggesting the dissent amounts to a radical breakdown of the Iraqi regime.


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