Rebel Group Says Iran Attacked Its Camps in Iraq

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iran's main rebel group, the People's Mujaheddin, said 18 of its fighters were killed and 43 wounded in attacks by "Iranian agents" on its camps in Iraq last week. The group, which seeks to overthrow Iran's Islamic government, said several of its fighters were missing after the attacks in northeast Iraq Thursday and Friday.

"To carry out these terrorist attacks and schemes, the [Iranian] Ministry of Intelligence dispatched a large number of its henchmen and agents as well as a number of its Kurdish and Arabic-speaking operatives to Iraq," the group said in a statement.

"Simultaneously, the clerical regime shelled a number of other Mujaheddin bases along the Iran-Iraq border with heavy artillery," the statement added.

Iranian officials were not available to comment.

The rebel group had close ties to the deposed Iraqi government and its bases in Iraq are considered enemy targets by U.S.-led forces.

Iran's intelligence minister, Ali Yunesi, said in remarks published last week that Iran had no intention of attacking People's Mujaheddin bases in Iraq, as it has done in the past in retaliation for cross-border attacks and bombings in Iran.

While publicly opposed to the U.S. and British attack on Iraq, Iran has vowed to stay out of the conflict.

Iran has said that scores of rebels defected and returned home in recent months under an amnesty offered by the Tehran government, but the People's Mujaheddin denied the report as "totally false."

Iraq's support for the group and Iran's backing for Iraqi Shiite Muslim dissidents has been a main obstacle to efforts by the two neighbors to normalize ties after their 1980-88 war.

Reuters

Hussein Portraits Removed

DAMASCUS, Syria -- The Iraqi Embassy here reopened for business following closure for Friday prayers, but the outdoor portraits of deposed president Saddam Hussein that it long displayed had been removed.

An employee said the embassy is continuing to function, issuing visas to foreigners and documents to Iraqi citizens.

Syria has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, and U.S. officials have accused it of sending military equipment to the Iraqis, something Syria has denied. American officials have also accused Syria of giving shelter to senior Iraqi officials.

In a front-page editorial, Al-Thawra, the Syrian government newspaper, said Iraqis "will catch their breaths once again and will deal painful blows to invading forces." The newspaper said: "The collapse of Baghdad . . . will be followed by other rounds that will certainly be resolved in favor of the owners of the land."

Associated Press

UNICEF Sending More Aid

SILOPI, Turkey -- UNICEF said it was sending seven trucks loaded with water supply gear, medical supplies and educational equipment into northern Iraq.

A UNICEF spokesman said the trucks, the biggest convoy the agency has assembled for the north to date, have been loaded with 89 tons of aid worth $1.3 million and were awaiting official clearance to cross at the Habur border gate. About 70 UNICEF trucks have entered Iraq in recent days, mostly from the south, and more shipments are planned.

"Our northern Iraq staff are now doing a security assessment on sending materials to Kirkuk and Mosul," two cities recently taken over by Kurdish and U.S. forces, said spokesman Michael Bociurkiw. "We are hoping to send as many as six trucks in the next few days."

He said schools in northern Iraq were due to open later this week and the agency hoped the first wave of evacuated international staff would reenter northern Iraq as soon as Monday.

Turkey closed the Habur border crossing to regular traffic more than a month ago but now is allowing aid convoys through.

Reuters

18 Held in McDonald's Plot

BEIRUT -- The government of Lebanon said it was holding 18 people, including two army draftees, in connection with a booby-trapped car discovered outside a McDonald's fast-food outlet in Beirut last weekend. The bomb failed to explode.

Lebanon's interior minister said earlier that the people behind the McDonald's bomb also organized attacks on six other U.S.-style food outlets and planned attacks on Western embassies.

Lebanese authorities found the explosives-packed car outside a McDonald's outlet on the edge of Beirut while searching the parking lot after a small blast in the restaurant's bathroom hurt three people.

Interior Minister Michel Murr has said security forces confiscated a rocket, hand grenades, pistols, machine guns and silencers from one of the detainees.

Reuters