Amnesty International's report that the Iraqi government has tortured, abused, imprisoned and executed the children of its opponents and critics is "just nonsense - baseless," said an Iraqi diplomat visiting Salt Lake City.
Kais Al-Yacouby, counselor and deputy chief of mission at Iraq's embassy in Washington, D.C., said the international human rights group got the information for its February report from people who are enemies of Iraq's government.He said the report offered no proof of the allegations.
Al-Yacouby said news reports of a January coup attempt against President Saddam Hussein and the subsequent execution of 200 people believed to have been involved are also false. They are part of a campaign designed to portray Iraq as a dangerous, unstable country, he said.
The diplomat did confirm previous news reports that Iraq used chemical weapons in its eight-year war with Iran. He said the weapons were used only after Iran had employed them first and Iraq had complained to the United Nations.
The Iraqi representative stressed that his country does not use chemical weapons unless an enemy uses them first, and Iraq would like all such weapons eliminated. But if that is to happen, it must happen in all countries - including the two superpowers, he said.
Al-Yacouby denied that Iraq used chemical weapons against its Kurdish population. The Kurds were caught in the middle when government troops went into villages in pursuit of traitors who had collaborated with Iran, and many Kurds fled into neighboring Turkey, but thousands have returned since the government issued an amnesty, he said.
In fact, throughout April the government is offering amnesty to all political refugees and even providing free plane tickets to those overseas who want to come home, he added.
"The war is over, and it's time now for us to reconstruct our country."
Al-Yacouby was in Salt Lake City for Friday's opening of an exhibit of the Islamic calligraphy of Mohamed Zakariya at the Salt Lake Art Center. The exhibit is sponsored by the Utah Committee of the American-Arab Affairs Council, the Salt Lake Art Center and the Y's Men's Club.
Zakariya, an American convert to Islam, was a machinist when he became interested in Islamic calligraphy. When he went to buy some examples, he found out how expensive they were and decided to try making some himself. The complex art form gradually became his primary career.
He's now writing a book about Islamic calligraphy. Its 1,400-year-history includes artists the caliber of Michelangelo and a huge variety of techniques, Zakariya said.
The calligraphy can be appreciated simply as art, but for practicing Moslems it also has deep religious significance, he explained.