Saddam's enemies may get London HQ courtesy of the US

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LONDON could become the base for a US-funded centre for Iraqi opposition activities as part of a comprehensive plan to undermine the regime of Saddam Hussein, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The opposition centre is one element of a 27-point plan drawn up by the Clinton Administration to bring down the leadership in Baghdad.

The plan entails the injection of new resources into the country's faltering opposition and moves towards the indictment of President Saddam Hussein and his regime for war crimes. A sum of $5m, already agreed by Congress, has apparently been earmarked for training opposition groups in organisation and recruitment, as well as funding the London centre.

A further $5m has been agreed for an anti-Saddam radio station, 'Radio Free Iraq', to be run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from its Prague headquarters. Several publications have carried advertisements for the post of `director, Iraq broadcast service'.

While signs of a shift in US policy towards Iraq have emerged piecemeal in recent weeks, details of the plan reveal a major change from applying overt pressure through international bodies like the UN and its arms inspection body, Unscom, to covert action. A recent unconfirmed report said that President Clinton had given the CIA the green light to mount secret operations for Saddam's removal.

Two leaders of rival Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic party and Jalal Talabani of the Popular Union of Kurdistan, have been invited to visit Washington later in the year. The invitations mark an effort by the administration to mend fences with the Kurdish opposition to Saddam after effectively cutting them off when a Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq failed.