Volume 96, Issue 97
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

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More canucks heading to Iraq?

(AP) Allied warplanes and missiles blasted targets in Iraq's capital yesterday, including one of Saddam Hussein's palaces and what was believed to be an Iraqi air force officers club.

The Iraqi information minister, reading a statement he said was from Saddam, called for a jihad, or holy war, against the American-led invasion.

"The aggression that the aggressors are carrying out against the stronghold of faith is an aggression on the religion, the wealth, the honour and the soul and an aggression on the land of Islam," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said on national television last night.

"Therefore, jihad is a duty in confronting them," he said, adding, "those who are martyred will be rewarded in heaven. Seize the opportunity, my brothers."

The statement was issued as U.S. forces were reported within 80 kilometres of Baghdad. Buildings in the capital shuddered in some of the strongest blasts since the air war began. B-52 bombers pounded Republican Guard positions north of Karbala and circling warplanes bombed targets in the area.

American warplanes, early yesterday, dropped bombs on an Iraqi presidential yacht, U.S. navy officials said, and the sound of more planes and heavy anti-aircraft fire could be heard over Baghdad.

Al-Sahhaf said 56 people were killed and 268 wounded overnight, including 24 dead in Baghdad. He said nine children, including an infant, were killed yesterday morning in Hillah, about 80 kilometres south of the capital.

In New York, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday there is ''lots of unhappiness'' at the UN about the war in Iraq and Arab countries want the United Nations to do more to bring about a ceasefire.

The 22-member Arab Group met Monday with Annan and announced it would push for adoption of a resolution in the General Assembly to show the strength of world opposition to the U.S.-led military campaign.

Annan said Arab countries want to see the secretary general and the Security Council ''be a bit more active'' about trying to end the war.

''My concern is the population in the cities that are besieged,'' Annan said.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, it was revealed that Canadian military officers on exchange with American units could be headed to Iraq. Some exchange officers could be among 120,000 additional troops being deployed to the Persian Gulf, Lt.-Gen. Mike Jeffery told the House of Commons defence committee. There are already 31 Canadian military officers serving on exchange with coalition forces in the war on Iraq.

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2002 THE GAZETTE