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Posted by andreas from ( on Saturday, September 28, 2002 at 11:53AM :

Yonadam Kanna

Saddam opponent rallies Modesto-area Assyrians

Modesto Bee
September 28, 2002 Posted: 05:25:09 AM PDT

President Bush may be finding his plan to attack Saddam Hussein a tough sell among some people, but Yonadam Kanna needs no persuasion.

"We need America to put an end to Iraqi suffering," Kanna said Friday. "We must have a democratic government that believes in freedom and peace, and guarantees the freedom of individual rights."

Kanna, general secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement of Iraq, is in the Modesto area to give updates on conditions in Iraq and drum up support among the more than 20,000 Assyrians living here. It is the third largest Assyrian community in the United States, behind Detroit and Chicago.

Kanna lives in the semi-independent northern area of Iraq. He is one of five Assyrian Christian members of that region's Parliament; the other 100 seats are filled by Kurdish Muslims. The two parties oppose the reign of Saddam Hussein, and hope the United States and other European countries will topple him.

"He destroyed 200 of our villages, including churches and monasteries," Kanna said. "They are trying to divert our language and culture to Arab. We are the children of Babylon and Ninevah, the beginning of civilization."

He said 300,000 Assyrians and 4 million Iraqis have fled Iraq in the last two decades. Kanna has fled the country twice when a death sentence was put out for him as an opposition leader. Now, he has a security squad of about 30 guards.

Kanna said the current debate in Washington about whether to attack Iraq is frustrating.

"The Iraqi people and peace must not become victims of competition between parties," he said. "We are calling them to be one voice against terrorism.

"In my opinion, the politicians don't understand that this threat is against not only Iraqis, but also against you and your people.

"This world is a small village. Nobody can say, 'I don't care.' The virus of Saddam is here (in the United States). The real threat is teaching people to hate others, and that's what he does."

Confidence in democracy

Kanna is confident that if Saddam is toppled, a democracy can be established and the infighting seen in Afghanistan won't happen.

"We have no problems among ourselves, Muslim or Christian or Arabs," Kanna asserted. "We have no warlords, no religious fanaticism. The opposition will come to power. We are preparing to have democracy."

To that end, he said he and other opposition leaders will be meeting at an undisclosed location in Europe during the next several weeks to discuss setting up an alternative government. If that meeting is successful, Kanna said, it would be a good time to attack Iraq.

"If you don't attack, then you are contributing to the suffering of the Iraqi people," he said. "It would lead to the building of terrorism and the threat of future attacks."

As for the price tag mentioned by some U.S. opponents to such action, Kanna said, "The cost is estimated to be $200 billion. But if you don't attack, you could lose $100,000 billion or more. Three airlines declared bankruptcy since Sept. 11; just think of what would happen with more (terrorist) attacks.

"We must uproot terrorism," he said. "The main root is there."

-- andreas
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