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Iranian human shields ask to head for holy sites in Iraq: press

A group of Iranian poets and artists intend to head for southern Iraq to create human shields around holy Shiite sites against probable US-led attacks, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted the Iranian press on Monday.

The Persian daily Nassim-e Saba cited an organizer of the group, Jalil Vaqe'-Talab, as saying they will set out for the Khosravi border and up to Iraq on March 25.

"Some of the poets and artists have decided to head for the Khosravi border and gather around the shrines of Imam Hussein and Hadhrat Abalfazl," he said of the two revered figures, who were martyred at the plains of Karbala in 680 AD.

"Our aim is to be the first to sacrifice our lives even on the pavement of the Master of Martyrs (Imam Hussein)'s court if the American aggressors attack Iraq," Vaq'e-Tabal said, it added.

The activist asked Iranian officials to "cooperate" by allowing them to cross into Iraq which has not normalized its relations with Tehran since imposing a war on the Islamic Republic between 1980 and 1988.

"We think the Iraqi people are different from their rulers. We are not less than those who have got to Iraq from England on buses to deploy at the populated regions in Iraq in order to protect civilians against the American aggressors," the paper further cited him as saying.

Vaq'e-Talab was reportedly referring to a group of peace activists, headed by former US marine Ken O'Keefe, whose Human Shield Action Iraq group has coordinated the departure of dozens of volunteers from London and ferried them to Iraq on buses.

Iran last month closed its border with Iraq and suspended dispatching pilgrims to Shiite pilgrimage sites because of security concerns in the wake of the prevailing regional situation.

"Because of security reasons, we decided that there is no more need for the presence of Iranian pilgrims in Iraq," Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said.

Iran opposes any military attack on Iraq, but has urged Baghdad to comply with UN resolutions.

... Payvand News - 3/10/03 ... --

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