IRAQ DENIES LINKS WITH ABU SAYYAF   

Manila, March4, 2003 -- Iraq denied yesterday the Abu Sayyaf's claim that it had been funding the gang's terrorist activities in the Philippines and neighboring countries.

In a statement, the Iraq embassy said the government of Iraq has not established any relations with any extremist or separatist group in the Philippines.

"Iraq has adopted a foreign policy compatible with its national principles and has a keen desire to realize progress and prosperity and to achieve peace, security, to promote the principles of justice and rightness in the whole world," read the statement.

The embassy said it appreciates the Filipino people's espousal of peace in the Middle East in light of impending war with the United States.

"(We express our high appreciation) to all Filipinos for their sincere position to support peace in Iraq," read the statement.

Earlier, Abu Sayyaf leader Hamsiraji Sali said his gang has been receiving money from the Iraqi government to finance its terrorist activities.

The bandits had already killed at least three Americans in Mindanao.

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) had tagged former Iraqi embassy Second Secretary Husham Husain as an Abu Sayyaf supporter.

Immediately after the terrorist bombing in Zamboanga City last October, the Abu Sayyaf called up Husain, the NICA added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said the NICA information on Husain's alleged terrorist links was enough for the Philippine government to expel the Iraqi diplomat last month.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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