Iraq urges YU to close ranks against West

BAGHDAD, Mar 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) Iraqi President Saddam Hussein called on Yugoslavia to ally itself closely with Baghdad to resist the United States and its Western allies.

"Let us close our ranks not only to face up to injustice but to work for prosperous life and to establish peace," the state Iraqi television quoted Saddam as telling Dragan Tomic, the speaker of the Serbian parliament, during a visit to Iraq late on Sunday.

Saddam also lashed out against last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which Western leaders said was intended to halt Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's mostly Moslem ethnic Albanians.

"We completely reject the idea of using Islam by America as a cover to kill and terrorize people and destroy infrastructure anywhere in the world," Saddam told the Yugoslav visitor.

He said that the air raids against Yugoslavia would have grave consequences for the United States and Europe in the long run and drew a parallel between the Yugoslav crisis and Iraq's confrontations with Washington.

U.S.-led multinational forces drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait after Iraq's 1990 invasion. And in December of last year, the United States and Britain unleashed a four-day air campaign against Iraq over weapons inspections, similar to NATO bombings of Yugoslavia earlier in 1999.

Belgrade and Baghdad enjoy good relations, feeling solidarity in part because they are both internationally isolated and under sanctions.

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