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Iraq: Parliament Holds Emergency Session


Baghdad, 19 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq's parliament today started an emergency session with the support of President Saddam Hussein hours before a deadline for a U.S. assault. Speaker Saadoun Hammadi told deputies that Iraqis are united against what he called "the criminal oppressive aggression" of the United States.

More than 270,000 U.S. and British troops are preparing to invade Iraq when given the order. U.S. President George W. Bush has said that Hussein has until early tomorrow to go into exile or face military attack. Iraqi officials have said Hussein will not leave Iraq.

Late yesterday, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad al-Duri, said no evidence has been presented that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. He said Bush's demand is "unacceptable by any logic." "This is the first time in history [that the] president of a state [has] ordered another president of another state to leave his own country. It is a mess; it is unacceptable by any logic, unless we have to accept the law of the jungle: Might is right," al-Duri said.

Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, yesterday said that U.S. troops will go into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction even if Hussein goes into exile.

Rejecting accusations of unilateralism, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said 45 countries have offered military or other help to the United States in the confrontation with Iraq. The State Department released the names of 30 of the states, but Powell said the 15 others do not wish to be identified publicly.

The named supporting countries include Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Britain, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

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