Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Iraqi interim Defence Minister Wants War with Iran

Lateline - 20/07/2004: Iran interfering in Iraqi affairs: Minister: "Australian Broadcasting Corporation


LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2004/s1158240.htm

Broadcast: 20/07/2004

Iran interfering in Iraqi affairs: Minister
Reporter: Norman Hermant

TONY JONES: Iraq has warned its neighbours it's prepared to retaliate against countries it suspects are supporting insurgents.

In an interview with a London-based Arabic newspaper, the country's interim Defence Minister also accused Iran of blatant interference in Iraqi affairs.

The tough talk comes as the insurgents' campaign of assassination continued and the Philippines celebrated the release of a hostage after pulling its forces out of Iraq.

Norman Hermant reports.

NORMAN HERMANT: Morning, and crowds look on to the latest chapter in Iraq's wave of assassinations.

The target: A local politician in Basra, considered a strong candidate to become the region's governor, shot dead by gunmen at a bogus security checkpoint.

COLONEL DAVID CALLUM, BRITISH ARMY: It would appear that this morning, an illegal checkpoint mounted by some terrorists, some assassins, has stationed itself here and assassinated one of the council members.

NORMAN HERMANT: Along with attacks on police and security forces, insurgents have also stepped up their campaign to spread fear amongst those working with Iraq's interim Government.

Last week, the governor of Mosul was also assassinated and a senior Iraqi defence official was gunned down overnight.

For the Philippines, there is much better news.

Hours after the last of their troops left Iraq, insurgents freed the Filipino truck driver they'd been holding for two weeks.

The Philippines endured harsh criticism from the US and other countries for meeting the demands of kidnappers and withdrawing its small humanitarian force from Iraq early.

But President Gloria Arroyo has defended that decision.

She had been under intense political pressure to secure the release in a country that has millions of overseas foreign workers, or OFWs.

GLORIA ARROYO, PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT: With over one million OFWs in the Middle East, in over 8 million Filipinos the world over, my Government has a deep national interest in their wellbeing, wherever they live and work.

I made a decision to bring our troops home a few days early in order to spare the life of Angelo.

I do not regret that decision.

NORMAN HERMANT: There's no resolution yet for a US Marine, who was believed to be a hostage but eventually wound up at the US Embassy in Beirut.

Lebanese-born Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun has denied speculation that he was actually a deserter.

CORPORAL WASSEF ALI HASSOUN: I did not desert my post.

I was captured and held against my will by anti-coalition forces for 19 days.

Once a marine, always a marine.

Semper Fi.

Thank you.

NORMAN HERMANT: The US military won't say whether it believes his story or not, only that he is still under investigation."


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