He may be banned from entering Britain, but he's going to save the world

The Guardian/July 8, 2002
By Matthew Engel

Washington -- The Americans at last have an envoy in Baghdad negotiating directly with the Iraqi leadership. The bad news is that he may not entirely represent the views of the inner circles of US government.

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, has spent the weekend meeting senior Iraqi officials, though it appeared that he did not meet Saddam Hussein. He said the aim was "to see what we can do to possibly stop a war."

The official Iraqi news agency said the talks were aimed at finding "ways to confront the American threats against Iraq", which is not quite the same thing.

Those threats were underlined over the weekend with reports that the Pentagon was planning an invasion of Iraq later this year using more than 200,000 troops. One report suggested 30,000 British troops would be among them.

Mr Farrakhan told a press conference in Baghdad yesterday that Iraqi leaders should be invited to Washington to address Congress.

"We appeal to the fairness of the American people, that before one American soldier should be put in harm's way, or one bomb dropped on Iraq, that there should and there must be a Congressional hearing," he said.

"This proposed war should be debated and those who desire war with Iraq should put before the American people the reasons that justify such action."

He said that hatred for the US and the cycle of violence would only increase if the Americans attack Iraq.

This was a more conciliatory approach than the one Mr Farrakhan adopted before leaving the US in June, when he called President Bush "the leader of the lynch mob", and far more conciliatory than some of his past remarks, in which he has referred to Jews as "blood suckers" who prayed in "synagogues of Satan."

Mr Farrakhan will not be stopping in London on his way home. In April, the appeal court supported a government order barring him from the country, on the grounds that his "notorious opinions" might provoke disorder.

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