U.S. to spend $14.6 million to help needy Iraqis and Saddam's opponents

Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration is planning to spend $14.6 million to support political opponents of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and to help Iraqis with humanitarian needs.

The State Department said Thursday it is close to agreement with a coalition of Iraqi opposition groups on a plan to spend $8 million for anti-Saddam media campaigns, including a newspaper and television broadcasts beamed to viewers inside Iraq. The broadcasts have been suspended for months because of disagreements between the State Department and the London-based Iraqi National Congress.

The remaining $6.6 million, slated for humanitarian assistance, would be earmarked for nongovernment organizations to spend on medical care, relief for displaced Iraqis, shelter, water supplies, sanitation and other services.

Administration officials said the assistance was not related to humanitarian needs that many Iraqis will face if President Bush orders military action against Iraq to unseat Saddam and his regime.

The officials, asking not to be identified, said the funds had been appropriated by Congress but not spent. They said that if arrangements had not been made to spend the money, it would not have been available after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

They said the money spent inside Iraq would be ticketed for the Kurdish population of northern Iraq, which generally has been outside of Saddam's control because of military protection provided by the United States and Britain.

Iraqis forced to flee to neighboring countries also would be eligible for assistance, the officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday pressed the administration's case against Iraq at a Republican fund-raiser in Orlando, Fla., saying, ``We must take the battle to the enemy and, if necessary, pre-empt certain threats to our country before they materialize.''

Meanwhile, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that the administration would not have a problem if Israel attacks Iraq in response to an Iraqi strike against Israeli targets.

``It's understood,'' Myers said, without elaborating. ``We understand the point.''

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had said he would not stand idly by in the event of an Iraqi attack against Israel.

Eleven years ago, Iraq fired Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf War. Israel did not retaliate, bowing to U.S. pressure. Then-President George H.W. Bush was concerned that Israeli countermeasures against Iraq could prompt Arab countries to pull out of the international coalition that had taken up arms against Iraq.