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 Friday, March 21, 2003

 
THE WAR HAS BEGUN



AFTER 24 HOURS

Civilian Casualty Update

As the countdown to war continues, Iraqis have been trying to get out of the country. But since midday on Tuesday, they have been unable to cross the border into Syria.

President Bush ordered the Treasury Department yesterday to seize more than $1.4 billion in Iraqi government money frozen in U.S. banks since 1990. The money, plus an additional $600 million frozen by Britain and 10 other countries, will be used to help defray the costs of rebuilding Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime is toppled, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said in announcing Bush's order.

The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter CRASH killed 12 British and four U.S. soldiers ON Friday morning in Kuwait — about 9 miles away from the border with Iraq . The helicopter was assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the officials said, adding that hostile fire had not been reported in the area.

Near the Kuwait-Iraq border: For US military planners and oil importers alike, the flames lighting the desert sky in the direction of Iraq's petroleum centre Basra seemed to confirm their fears. The scene suggested that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ordered his troops to start sabotaging their country's precious patrimony - 112 billion barrels of oil in the world's second-largest proven crude reserves.

A convoy of U.S. tanks rolled unopposed Friday through the desert toward the Iraqi capital in the second day of the campaign

U.S. intelligence officials believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possibly accompanied by one or both of his powerful sons, was still inside a compound in southern Baghdad early yesterday when it was struck by a barrage of U.S. bombs and cruise missiles.But intelligence analysts in Washington and operatives working in the region were not certain whether the Iraqi leader was killed or injured or escaped the attack, according to senior Bush administration officials, who worked

U.S. troops got their first real scare Thursday when Iraqi missiles streaked across the border into Kuwait, forcing Americans in the desert to climb into protective suits and put on gas masks.

Iraq has fired its ninth missile at Kuwait since the United States launched its military campaign against Baghdad, but it was not considered a threat to the emirate.The incident, announced after sirens sounded once again, followed eight confirmed Iraqi missile attacks.

US and British troops have captured the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr, Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency reported.The town is the only major seaport for goods to enter Iraq.It is about 50 kilometres south of the key city of Basra, which US military sources say will be a first target for invading forces.

WORLD REACTION

USA: Another veteran US diplomat has resigned from the State Department in protest over President George W. Bush's policy toward Iraq, becoming the third and the highest-ranking career foreign service officer to do so since last month, officials said Thursday.Mary Wright, the number two at the US embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, told Secretary of State Colin Powell she was resigning because she could no longer perform her job in good conscience, the officials said.In a letter to Powell, Wright, who joined the State Department 15 years ago after a 26-year stint in the army and army reserves, also said she disagreed with Bush's Mideast policy, his approach to North Korea and could not support the domestic consequences of the war on terrorism.

Police in San Francisco have arrested 1,025 people during violence at an anti-war demonstration. Protesters blocked streets leading from the city's Oakland Bay Bridge, while small groups of people clashed with police and threw debris.

CANADA:
Fans booed during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before the New York Islanders' 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. The sellout crowd of 21,273 at Bell Centre was asked to ''show your support and respect for two great nations'' before the singing of the American and Canadian national anthems. But a significant portion of the crowd booed throughout ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' in an apparent display of their displeasure with the U.S.-led war against Iraq. More than 200,000 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration in Montreal last Saturday.

BELGIUM: In Brussels, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who were throwing stones outside the US embassy. Organisers said 3,000 people joined the protest, though police put the figure at 1,500

VATICAN: Pope John Paul II lost his temper with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi in recent discussions at the Vatican on a possible war in Iraq , a Catholic leaning newspaper reported on Wednesday. "John Paul II used words and gestures bordering on a diplomatic incident," in his audience with Blair on Feb 22, the daily said. A luncheon meeting with Berlusconi and the undersecretary at the prime minister's office, Gianni Letta, on March 4 scarcely went better, according to the newspaper. Vatican sources told the newspaper the pope had "raised his voice, pointed an accusing finger at the two of them, and even banged his fist on the table," because he disagreed with Italy's support for a US-led war on Iraq.
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OTHER CRISES


Traces of the deadly poison ricin have been found in two phials inside a locker at Paris' Gare de Lyon railway station. The find was made by police after a telephone call from the state railway company SNCF. The locker contained "two phials with a powder, a bottle filled with a liquid and two smaller bottles also containing a liquid", the French Interior ministry said in a statement.

The care of many patients with a mysterious respiratory illness is being seriously jeopardized because nurses and other health care workers are staying away from their jobs out of fear of getting sick themselves, officials at the World Health Organization said yesterday.Some hospitals in Vietnam and Hong Kong are working with half the usual staff, raising fears that inadequate care will contribute to further spread of the disease, the officials said.

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