Meeting of Hussein Foes Backed

From Reuters

An exiled Iraqi Shiite leader said Saturday that Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia had given their backing to a September conference of all Iraqi groups opposed to President Saddam Hussein.

Mohammed Bakir Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), added that the Iraqi army was extending its campaign against Shiites hiding in Iraq's southern marshes and had used chemical weapons against them.

"Efforts are under way to bring the conference to fruition," he said in a statement released in Tehran.

He made no mention of a venue but said Kurdish opposition groups had agreed to take part if conditions were favorable.

Hakim said Shiites in Iraq's marshes faced a fresh army onslaught.

"Fighting in Amara province has extended to include the marshes of Basra and Nassiriya where the forces of tyrant Saddam used chemical weapons against the people to tighten the grip on the areas where thousands of dissidents are entrenched."

The Tehran-based SCIRI said Thursday Iraqi troops killed 30 women and children.

Hakim said a unit from the Hamurabi forces, part of Saddam's Republican Guard in Amara, fought Saddam loyalists. Some Hamurabi units were reportedly accused of taking part in a failed coup attempt this month, he added.

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