Iraq Prepares For U.S. Strike

Iraqi Muslims praticipate in Friday prayers, Sept. 21, 2001 at a mosque in Baghdad, to ask God to protect their country from any possible foreign aggression after Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.
Despite denying any link to the terror attacks in the United States, Iraq considers itself a possible target in the American campaign against terrorism, the Iraqi vice president said.

At the opening of the 13th Babylon International Festival, Taha Yassin Ramadan told reporters Saturday night that Iraq is not related in any way to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington and he accused America of only using force to impose its will upon others.

When asked if the United States may attack Iraq, Ramadan said:

"Everything is possible. Yet this is not a new matter to Iraq, which faced ... a more stronger campaign led by the United States 11 years ago." But, he added, "We are confident that America is heading to its end."

In Jordan, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Arab countries were opposed to any strikes against Iraq. He said such an attack would "topple the balance of power" in the region, and that the U.S. quest to combat terrorism had to be carried out in consultation with Arab countries.

U.S. officials have said there was no overwhelming evidence at this point that Iraq was linked to the attack, but others have said that angle should be investigated.

Asked whether the United States should go after Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on CBS's Face the Nation would only say, "I think the president has a set of decisions and calculations he has to make.''

Washington is strengthening its already formidable Gulf arsenal, sending more than 100 aircraft, positioning naval ships and calling up thousands of troops for an imminent strike against those it considers responsible for the recent terror attacks in the United States that left more than 6,000 people dead or missing.

Rumsfeld said the United States was receiving help from countries and individuals that in some instances were ''surprising'' and that would be key to the outcome.

Since 1991, U.S. and British planes have patrolled Iraqi skies to enforce no-fly zones, using bases in the Gulf and Turkey to launch sorties against Iraqi military installations. Such bases are expected to figure in a likely U.S.-led campaign against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, which harbors exiled Saudi dissident and prime suspect in the U.S. attacks, Osama bin Laden.

The United States considers Iraq, which remains shackled by economic sanctions 11 years after the Gulf War, a state sponsor of terrorism.

Thousands of Iraqis celebrated the opening of the annual Babylon festival held among the ancient city's ruins, about 62 miles south of Baghdad. Performers from 34 countries are participating.

Iraqi dancers performed in colorful costumes to folkloric music. The lyrics of the festival's opening number, taken from works by famed poet Abdel Razzaq Abdel Wahid, praised the leadership of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, comparing him to ancient victorious kings.

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