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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
British Iraqis 'dismayed' by war threats
Woman surfs the internet in a Baghdad cafe
There is concern for relatives still in Iraq
Members of the Iraqi community in Britain have told BBC News Online they are deeply concerned about the possibility of military action in Iraq.

Dr Settuh Benjamin, a psychiatrist at Sutton Hospital in Surrey, who came to the UK from Baghdad 30 years ago, said she was "furious and dismayed" by US and UK talk of action against Saddam Hussein.

It will only hurt ordinary people

Settuh Benjamin
"It's an irrational decision by irrational politicians and it will only hurt ordinary Iraqi people," she said.

She pointed out that Iraqis, including her brothers, sisters, nephews and cousins, have already been struggling under UN sanctions and British-US air strikes on no-fly zones for 12 years - and such actions would make their lives even harder.

"They should lift sanctions and leave the Iraqi people alone," she said.

'Playing politics'

Dr Benjamin was sceptical that the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of opposition Iraqi parties currently being paid much attention by the US, could provide a better alternative for the Iraqi people.

"I wouldn't support them and of the people I know in Iraq, none of them would support them," she said.

Dr Benjamin called for Iraqis to be left to choose their own destiny.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam is "despicable" - but what good will an attack do?

"I would like a better regime in Iraq - a more democratic government, more freedom to talk without being bundled into prison.

"But that must be left up to the people. It has to be up to the people to select somebody from inside - it can't be imposed by the US."

Dr Mehdi al-Mussawi, a GP who lives in Greenford, north-west London, said he doubted the effectiveness of the kind of military action apparently being considered by the US and its allies.

"I'm against the regime of Saddam Hussein but at the same time I'm not sure the US and its allies are serious about removing him," he said.

I would like a better regime in Iraq... but that must be left up to the people

Settuh Benjamin
"The action last decade disappointed us. The US struck when Saddam Hussein was very weak. They hurt Iraqi people but he came back stronger than ever," he said.

"I doubt they are really serious, I think it's maybe more about playing politics."

Dr al-Mussawi, who came to the UK seven years ago with his wife and five children, feared for his relatives still in Iraq "and for all the Iraqi people".

He said he would welcome help and support from the West in changing the Iraqi regime - but that the impetus from change had to come from among the Iraqi people.

Painful memories

Adnan Kazwini, 71, a retired mechanical engineer from Ealing in west London, said he had too many painful memories of the Iraq action more than a decade ago to want to see it again.

He said his wife had lost a leg, before then having to battle cancer. "We suffered a lot in the Gulf War, we know what suffering is."

Perhaps the army officers could rise up and topple Saddam

Adnan Kazwini
Mr Kazwini said he was "very worried" for his relatives in Iraq - which he guessed numbered about 500.

"If anything happens, God knows how many of them will be left," he said.

Mr Kazwini said the US should stop interfering in the country's affairs.

"Saddam Hussein is a despicable person, but we must let the Iraqi people change their own regime," he said.

Like Dr Benjamin, Mr Kazwini would not trust the opposition INC politicians, whom he said were living the high life in London and had "no base and no supporters" in Iraq.

But he thought that perhaps a military solution would be found within the country.

"Perhaps the army officers could do something - perhaps they could rise up and topple Saddam," he said.

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08 Aug 02 | Middle East
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