NEWSFLASH

ARABS TO SADDAM: LEAVE IRAQ, AVERT WAR

MANILA, January 9, 2003 (STAR) Countries in the Middle East have urged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to voluntarily leave his country to avert war with the United States, Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said yesterday.

Ople said the information was relayed by ambassadors of Middle Eastern countries with whom he met earlier this week.

"I talked to the Arab ambassadors and they said there is a good solution to this," Ople told reporters.

"Some of their governments are urging Saddam to withdraw voluntarily from Iraq and find refuge in a third country. This will also avoid the possibility of a bloody war and this will save the lives of Saddam and his people," he said.

He mentioned Libya as one of the possible countries where Saddam could seek haven.

The Philippines has been closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East, where contingency plans have been put in place to evacuate some 1.5 million Filipino workers there if war erupts.

The US military has been building up its forces in the Gulf ahead of a January 27 deadline for United Nations weapons inspectors to submit to the UN Security Council their first major report on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq has denied Washington’s accusations it was harboring weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and possibly deadly chemical and biological agents. — AFP, Delon Porcalla


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