Newspapers tone down anti-American rhetoric


IRAQI newspapers yesterday toned down their defiant rhetoric, a sign that Baghdad may avoid escalating its military confrontation with the US, at least for the time being.

The newspapers avoided fiery comments or editorials. Their front pages were splashed with pictures of President Saddam Hussein's Wednesday meetings with air defence commanders and chiefs of staff.

In their inside pages they published pictures of "the victims of the criminal American bombing on Wednesday".

The papers shifted focus to - world reaction to the US missile strikes, highlighting Russia's condemnation of the attacks, which were prompted by Iraqi military moves in the Kurdish north.

Yesterday Iraq's state-run radio and television were slowly switching to normal programmes after a three-day continuous broadcast of patriotic songs and commentaries urging Iraqi armed forces and people to rise against "criminal Bill Clinton and his vicious aggression".

The government newspaper al-Jumhouriya, in a front-page editorial, thanked Russia, France and China for what it described as their pro-Iraq attitudes on Baghdad's latest conflict with Washington.

The editorial in the official al-Qadissiya called on members of the UN Security Council not to remain silent on "America's humiliating aggression". So did Babel, the newspaper of President Saddam's eldest son, Uday. The official al-Iraq had no comment.

AP adds from Amman:

Jordan, which showed discomfort over the US attacks on Iraq, will soon put on trial 145 people accused of involvement in recent food riots blamed on the Baghdad government.

The Information Minister, Mr Marwan Mouasher, said yesterday that the accused included 38

known political activists, many of whom were linked with a local pro-Iraqi political party.

Authorities have accused the Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party, an offshoot of President Saddam's ruling party, of instigating last month's protests in southern Jordan.