Exiled Iraqi officers meet in London to discuss ways to topple Saddam
Iraqi military officers once loyal to Saddam Hussein met in London on Friday and Saturday and an army general who defected four years ago called for the Iraqi president's overthrow and a transition to civilian rule. Khaled Shams al-Din issued the call to the meeting that the officers say has been organized without sponsorship from the United States.
More than 200 people attended an open meeting at a convention hall to discuss how to bring down Saddam's regime in Baghdad and secure democracy, organizers said. The meetings were to last through the weekend.
"Iraq has bled for far too long, and now we are ready to heal her wounds," Shams al-Din said. "We exiled military officers realize the extent of the task ahead. We therefore ask the international community to support us in our quest for a democratic Iraq." He promised that in a post-Saddam Iraq, the military would be a force for stability and protecting the people, not oppression.
The officers urged the United States on Saturday to try to topple the Iraqi president without destroying the country.
"The United States will not find support inside or outside Iraq for an offensive that would harm civilians, destroy the infrastructure and target troops not defending the regime," Major General Najib al-Salhi told Reuters.
Participants gained a boost from the unexpected appearance of Prince Hassan of Jordan. Hassan, uncle of Jordan's King Abdullah II, was cautious when asked about his presence at the opening of the three-day meeting.
Asked whether he favored the re-establishment of a monarchy in Iraq, Hassan told reporters: "I have no agendas at all. I am not in position to comment on questions about the future. The question is entirely the choice of the Iraqi people. "I'm not giving any signals. I am not a Jordanian government official." Hassan added: "I feel it is essential to talk about the present on the basis of our shared roots.
"Ultimately it will be the Iraqi people who will go after Saddam and bring him to justice. We look forward to being in Iraq in the near future," a spokesman for the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) told reporters.
Albert Yelda, co-founder of the Iraqi National Coalition, said the meeting would be the biggest gathering ever of exiled Iraqi officers. He said they hope to unify those in exile and still inside Iraq in "establishing a democratic regime where the Iraqis, Assyrians, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans can live peacefully and equally."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that personnel from the American embassy in London also would attend. Representatives from the Pentagon were present, too. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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