Jordan awash in Iraqi agents, launches widescale crackdown

Friday, March 14, 2003

AMMAN Jordan has intensified its crackdown on suspected Iraqi agents amid fear of massive unrest sparked by a U.S.-led war against Baghdad.

Western diplomatic sources said Iraq has thousands of agents around the Hashemite kingdom. The sources said many of the agents are operated by the Iraqi embassy in Amman, which is one of the largest in Jordan.

Authorities have arrested scores of Jordanian nationals and foreigners believed to be working for the regime of President Saddam Hussein. Those arrested include Islamic activists, union leaders and Iraqi nationals, Middle East Newsline reported.

Last week, authorities arrested a leading pro-Iraqi activist, identified as Fawaz Zurikat. Zurikat is a member of a committee that has planned rallies in support of the Saddam regime.

Hakem Fayez, a colleague of Zurikat, said the detained man was an active member of the committee. He said security agents arrested Zurikat at his office and seized documents and computer files.

Fayez said the arrest was linked to the volatile atmosphere amid the expected U.S. war against Baghad.

The committee had been trying to organize a huge pro-Saddam rally in Amman.

But the rally, scheduled for March 7, was cancelled by Jordanian authorities.

On Saturday, Jordan's largest opposition group called for the expulsion of U.S. troops from the kingdom. The Islamic Action Front called on Jordanians to boycott U.S. troops and refuse to service them. Later, an IAF leader met with King Abdullah.

At the same time, Jordan stressed that it would not host the Iraqi opposition in the Hashemite kingdom. Officials said the Iraqi opposition has not begun operations in the country.

"Those news are false, and the aim of the rumor is to unsettle the atmosphere in the region," Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Adwan said.

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