Powell visits mass grave site in Kurdish region, hails ''winds of freedom'' in Iraq
US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited a mass grave on Monday to stress perhaps the single biggest "human-rights abuse" of Saddam Hussein's regime - the chemical weapons killing of around 5,000 people in March 1988.
Powell flew to Halabja from the capital city of Baghdad to participate in the formal dedication of a memorial and museum to commemorate those who lost their lives there 15 years ago.
Powell traveled in a military transport aircraft to Kirkut, then transferred to a helicopter to arrive at the Kurdish-dominated town, according to AP.
The "Halabja massacre" has been cited repeatedly by US President Bush as an example of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's "brutality."
In the course of the ceremony, Powell stood before rows of simple headstones where the remains of 600 victims of the conquered regime lie. Later, Powell was expected to have lunch with three Kurdish leaders after the dedication.
Earlier, on Sunday, Powell attended a Baghdad City Council meeting, met with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and joined the US administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, at a joint news conference.
"There is vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land," Powell said after the city council meeting.
He hailed progress in rebuilding Iraq but shied away from a 2004 target date floated by interim leaders for elections.
"We look forward for the next steps that will come, the writing of a constitution, and from that constitution, the people will be given a chance to express their will," he said.
"The major new threat are the terrorists who are trying to infiltrate the country for the purpose of destroying this very hopeful process," he said. "We will not allow that to happen." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)